Getting Clark Right on Van Til’s Notion of Analogy

Had it not been primarily for the work of John Robbins and The Trinity Foundation, the legacy and theology of Gordon H. Clark might have largely fallen into obscurity and Clark himself would have remained an unknown figure to many in this new generation of believers. At the present time, there is a small, but ever-growing, movement of believers that is dedicated to rediscovering and promoting the views of Gordon Clark. What these writers, bloggers, podcasters, and pastors have discovered however in their attempt to promote the ideas of Clark is that he has largely been ignored and misrepresented as much as he has been attacked and marginalized. Unfortunately, this has led many people to believe things about Clark that are wrong and it has caused many others to dismiss him without properly understanding his views. Clark is not difficult to understand for those who may wish to read his work for themselves. Moreover, his contributions to the faith are significant and should be given serious consideration.

The problem today is that many persist in rejecting Clark and continue to speak out against him while remaining ignorant of what he said and wrote. While many who disagree with Clark profess to have read him, often their bias against him is outweighed only by their ignorance of him. We have encountered many followers of Cornelius Van Til who adamantly disagree with Clark and yet do not understand or represent him accurately. The purpose of this article is to showcase one such example and to present an argument in favor of Clark’s criticism against Van Til’s notion of analogy, as it was presented in “The Complaint.”

Recently Tyler Vela of The Freed Thinker Podcast attempted to argue against Clark’s criticism of Van Til’s notion of analogy and in the process demonstrated his ignorance of Clark and the issue. The discussion ensued shortly after I posted the following comment to the Bible Thumping Wingnut Facebook group.

Original Post

We do not just have an analogy of the truth we have the truth itself, and this in no way harms the Creator/ creature distinction.

This post was meant to express a favorable disposition of Clark’s view with regards to the most disputed theological topic in the Clark-Van Til Controversy. It is possible, however, that some readers may not be familiar with the controversy.

Following in the tradition of his father and grandfather, Clark sought to become an ordained minister in the faith and to that end he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Philadelphia Presbytery on August 9, 1944. But shortly after he was ordained to the ministry, a protest ensued as 12 elders, including Cornelius Van Til, issued a formal complaint against his ordination. These elders produced a document, which came to be known as “The Complaint.” This document, which was read during a meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia on November 20, 1944, would lay the groundwork for what later became known as the “Clark-Van Til Controversy.” The document identified four theological topics of the dispute but the main theological point of dispute was over the incomprehensibility of God. This dispute over the incomprehensibility of God was chiefly concerned with the way in which man’s knowledge relates to God’s knowledge.

Doug Douma, author of The Presbyterian Philosopher points out the following:

Van Til used the term “analogy” to describe the relationship between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge… Van Til used “analogy” to mean that man’s knowledge itself is an analogy of God’s knowledge… Echoing Van Til, “The Complaint” declared, “Because of his very nature as infinite and absolute the knowledge which God possesses of himself and of all things must remain a mystery which the finite mind of man cannot penetrate.” And in the strongest form possible, the phrase for which “The Complaint” became most well-known, “We dare not maintain that [God’s] knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point.”

In critiquing Van Til’s theory of analogy, Clark argued that if God’s knowledge has no point in common with ours, then we know nothing that is true, for God knows all truths. In “The Answer,” [a response to “The Complaint”] his arguments for this conclusion is presented; ‘The Presbytery wishes to suggest that if man does not know at least one truth that God knows, if man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge do not coincide in at least one detail, then man knows nothing at all. God knows all truth, and if man’s mind cannot grasp one truth, then man’s mind grasps no truth. Far from being a test of orthodoxy, this test imposed by “The Complaint” is nothing else than skepticism and irrationalism.”[i]

Clark argued that skepticism and irrationalism were the results of Van Til’s position. Dr. Gary Crampton has also argued this point against Van Til’s notion of analogy. Crampton writes,

…there is the Van Tilian notion of analogy; that is, that all human knowledge is, and can only be, analogical to God’s knowledge. There is no point at which God’s knowledge meets man’s knowledge. Dr. Van Til is not just teaching that there is a difference in the quantity of God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge (a belief with which all Christians should agree), but that there is also a difference in the content of knowledge. Astonishingly, Dr. Van Til writes: Man could not have the same thought content in his mind that God has in His mind unless he were himself divine. Elsewhere he states that man’s knowledge of God and His Word is at no point identical with the content of God’s mind. And it is because of the fact that all human knowledge is only analogical to God’s knowledge that all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.

Such a view, if carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to complete skepticism.[ii]

This quote from Crampton’s article was the one that was posted on the original thread in the comments section in the hope that it would explain, in more detail, the position taken with respect to the original post. Crampton points out the same thing Clark himself pointed out, namely that this view of Van Til’s leads to skepticism. However, Tyler replied that “the claim that it would lead to skepticism is just absurd because it ignores the fact of revelatory knowledge based on Scriptures.”

In response to Tyler’s comments, I stated, “That is the logically necessary result of such a position.” Tyler then challenged me to produce a syllogism to show this to be the case. Tyler wrote, “Without citing ideological articles, can you present the syllogism that shows it is logically NECESSARY?” He then provided his own syllogism which, unfortunately for him, only served to highlight his failure to grasp the substance of the Clarkian criticism. Tyler wrote:

1 What God has revealed, we can know.

2 God has revealed reliable anthropomorphic truths about himself.

Therefore,

We can have reliable anthropomorphic knowledge of God.

I don’t see how that “logically necessitates” skepticism.

The reason Tyler can’t “see how that [syllogism] ‘logically necessitates’ skepticism” is that it doesn’t, and that is not what Clark said would lead to skepticism. Clark never denied the use of analogies or anthropomorphisms in relation to our knowledge of God or anything thing else for that matter. With such confusion, it is no wonder then that Tyler can’t “see how that ‘logically necessitates’ skepticism.” In the original conversation thread, I quoted and agreed with Crampton who wrote, “Such a view, if carried to its logical conclusion, would lead to complete skepticism.” What view was Crampton referring too? Was it that “God has revealed anthropomorphic truths about himself and therefore, we can have reliable anthropomorphic knowledge of God” as Tyler argued in his syllogism? No, it was the view that “all human knowledge is, and can only be, analogical to God’s knowledge.” The contention, which Tyler apparently failed to grasp, was not over analogical knowledge of God but rather over the idea that all of man’s knowledge is analogical and that there is no point at which God’s knowledge meets man’s knowledge. Simply put, Van Til did not do what Tyler has done in that syllogism; that is to limit the use of analogy to our knowledge of God. Van Til wrote, “The fact that man’s knowledge must always remain analogical is applicable to his knowledge of God as well as to his knowledge of the universe.”[iii] Van Til held that all our knowledge was analogical and that is partly what Clarkians argue will lead to skepticism if drawn to its logical conclusion. Unfortunately, this reveals a significant lack of understanding on Tyler’s part. He would later go on to ask, “Does God have a mighty arm or is it [an] analogy? If it is an analogy, does it not teach us anything that we can then know about God? Does that fact that it is analogy mean that we are stuck with abject skepticism of what it means.” Again, this is highly revealing on Tyler’s part.

In order to properly address Tyler’s confusion, we will answer his questions more directly as we consider what Clark wrote about analogy. Then we will address the overlying issue at hand and examine Van Til’s notion of analogy from two different points of consideration. First, we will examine the notion “that all human knowledge is, and can only be, analogical to God’s knowledge.” Then we will examine Van Til’s notion. “that [God’s] knowledge and our knowledge [do not] coincide at any single point.”

Does Analogy automatically lead to “abject skepticism?”

First, let’s look at what Clark wrote and then we can answer Tyler’s questions more directly. Clark wrote,

Of course, there are figures of speech, metaphors, anthropomorphisms, [analogies] and the like. But these would be meaningless if there were no literal statements to give them meaning. For example, 2 Chronicles 16:9 – “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth” – is ludicrously ridiculous if taken literally: little eyeballs rolling over the dusty ground. But unless the statement, God is omniscient, is literal, the figure has nothing to refer to.[iv]

Now let’s answer Tyler’s questions, “Does God have a mighty arm or is it analogy. If it is analogy, does it not teach us anything that we can then know about God?” Of course, it is an analogy, but unless there is a literal truth, such as God is powerful and mighty, to give it meaning then it tells us nothing about God. Tyler then asked, “Does the fact that it is analogy mean that we are stuck with abject skepticism of what it means.” Again, this is not what Clark or his followers argue will lead to skepticism so the answer is no, not if there is a literal statement to give it meaning. Tyler apparently thinks that Clarkians believe analogy automatically leads to skepticism. If he had read Clark for himself then he may have read when Clark wrote the following.

Those who defend the Bible as a true revelation must insist that it conveys literal truth. This does not mean the God cannot sometimes use symbolism and metaphor [or analogy]. Of course, there is symbolism in Ezekiel, there are parables in the gospels, and there are metaphors scattered throughout. God might have used even mythology and fable. But unless there are literal statements along with these figures of speech – or at the very least, unless figures of speech can be translated into literal truth – a book conveys no definite meaning.

Let a person say that the cross symbolizes the love of God. However, if all language or all religious language is symbolical, the statement that the cross symbolizes the love of God is itself a symbol. A symbol of what? When this last question is answered, we shall find that this answer is again a symbol. Then another symbol will be needed, and another. And the whole process will be meaningless.

This contemporary theory of language is open to the same objections that were raised against the Thomistic [and the Van Tilian] notion of analogical knowledge. In order to have meaning, an analogy, a metaphor, or a symbol must be supported by some literal truth. If Samson was as strong as an ox, then an ox must literally be strong. If Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah, then something must be literally true about lions and about Christ also. No matter with what literary embellishment the comparison be made there must be a strictly true statement that has given rise to it. And a theory that says all language is symbolic is a theory that cannot be taken as literally true.[v]

Clearly then, Clark did not reject the use of analogy, symbolism, or anthropomorphism. Nor did he claim that analogical or anthropomorphic descriptions of God would automatically lead to skepticism. This level of confusion and ignorance raises suspicion for one who claims to have read both sides. Tyler is without excuse because he was encouraged to, “read some Gordon Clark,” to which he replied, “I have read Clark.” After I quoted Crampton I stated that Clark had already refuted Van Til’s notion of analogy to which Tyler responded by saying, “‘Refuted’ is FAR too strong a term btw. Almost laughably so to anyone who had read both sides.” Is it not “the fool [who] rages and laughs.” (Proverbs 29:9) Tyler ought to be careful if he finds himself tempted to laugh at Clark or his followers. But perhaps he was merely posturing in the discussion when he claimed to have read both sides. After this encounter with Tyler, I seriously doubt he has read both sides.

All of this is to merely to highlight Tyler’s confusion and what many Van Tilians tend to do in discussions about Clark. Their obstinacy toward Clark is outweighed only by their ignorance of Clark. But Tyler did request a Syllogism to demonstrate that Van Til’s view of analogy logically necessitated skepticism.

All Human Knowledge Is Analogical

It would appear by and large that when Van Tilians make the claim that all of man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge they intend for this proposition to be regarded as something that is literally true. However, we can provide a syllogism to show that this is only can only be an analogy.

Premise 1: All man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s Knowledge

Premise 2: “All man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge” is a knowledge claim made by a man

Conclusion: Therefore “all man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge” is an analogy.

Clark had already pointed this out when he wrote:

On the complainants’ theory, the proposition “the truth man has is analogical” is itself only an analogy. It is not the truth that God has. Nor could man know that it was God who was revealing such a proposition, for again the proposition “God is revealing that truth is analogical” is only an analogy of the truth. (“The Answer” Pg 22)

If this proposition, all man’s knowledge is analogical, is not to be regarded as literally true then it must be analogous to something that is literally true. To understand the analogy, we must also know and understand the literal truth which gives it meaning. It is important to recognize that the truth of Jesus’ parables was obscured from those who were not given the literal meaning of the parable. In Luke 8:4-8 we read the parable of the sower.

4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Jesus gives the parable and it is clear from the text that nobody understood what it meant until he provided the literal meaning of the parable. In verses 9-10 we read, “9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'” All that the “others” were given was a parable or an analogy, and although they heard they did not understand. If all we have is an analogy with no support or connection to a literal truth then we are no better off than these people. Therefore, Jesus had to take his disciples aside and give them the literal meaning of the parable so that they might understand.

11 Now the parable is this: The seed is [analogous to] the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are [analogous to] those who have heard; then the devil [the birds are an analogy of the devil] comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are [analogous to] those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are [analogous to] those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are [analogous to] those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:9-15)

It’s also important to remember that we can draw a valid deduction from a false premise. As a Clarkian, I’m not interested in defending Van Til’s irrational notion of analogy and I would argue that the first premise is false. I do not believe that all of man’s knowledge is analogical. Here I’m going to give Tyler an ad hominem reply and accept the first premise as true for the sake of argument. Unfortunately, however, before we can proceed any further, we must correct a very common misunderstanding, one which Tyler has previously made, that all ad hominem replies are fallacious. Here we must caution the would-be philosopher to avoid making this mistake. Gordon Clark wrote:

ad hominem – Latin meaning “to the man.” A form of argument that accepts a proposition espoused by another for the purpose of deducing from it contradictory propositions or propositions that would be rejected by the other person. AD HOMINEM SHOULD BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE INFORMAL FALLACY OF ABUSIVE AD HOMINEM. (Emphasis Clark’s)[vi]

Clark rightly distinguished between an ad hominem reply and an abusive ad hominem fallacy. This view, though largely misunderstood, is not particular to Clark. I am going to accept the proposition “all man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge,” which accurately reflects Van Til’s notion of analogy, for the purpose of deducing from it contradictory propositions or propositions that would be rejected by Tyler. First, we will use the Modus Ponens syllogism to show it to be self-contradictory if it is to be taken as literally true. Then we will use the Modus Tollens syllogism to reduce it to absurdity if it is not to be taken as literally true. Since we have shown that the claim, “all man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge” is itself an analogy we can proceed to show that it is self-contradictory if the Van Tilian intends for it to be taken as literally true. To do this we will use of a Modus Ponens syllogism.

Premise 1: (If P) If the claim “all human knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge” is an analogy (then Q) then it cannot be literally true.

Premise: 2 (P) The claim is an analogy

Conclusion: (Therefore Q) Therefore it cannot be literally true.

It would appear that the Van Tilian claim, that all knowledge is analogical, is to be regarded as literally true. If that is the case then it is clearly self-contradictory and therefore self-refuting. We should also point out that the mind is compelled to reject contradictions because we are made in the image of God and it is only by suppressing the truth that they are maintained and professed. However, if the knowledge claim itself is not literal but analogical then it must be supported by some literal truth if it is to convey any truth or meaning. We can show by using the Modus Tollens syllogism how this is reduced to absurdity and leads to a position that Tyler and every other Van Tilian would reject.

Premise 1: (If P) If this analogy “all human knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge” is to convey any truth or meaning (then Q) then it must be supported by some literal truth which is knowable to man.

Premise 2: (Not Q) No literal truth is accessible to man for all of man’s knowledge is analogical

Conclusion: (Therefore Not P) therefore this analogy conveys no truth or meaning.

First, we showed that Van Til’s notion of analogy is itself an analogy. Then we gave an ad hominem reply and accepted the position as true so for the sake of argument in order to show it to be either self-contradictory or absurd. We used the Modus Ponens syllogism to show that if this analogy is to be regarded as literally true then it is self-contradictory and therefore must be false. We then used the Modus Tollens syllogism to show that if it is not to be regarded as literal but rather it is analogical then it is reduced to absurdity on the account that it conveys not truth or meaning. Certainly, Tyler would reject these propositions, which have been properly deduced from Van Til’s theory of analogy.

No Point of Coincidence

By this point, the problem with Van Til’s notion of analogy should clear but let’s take it a little further and address some of Tyler’s other points. Tyler argued,

Again, do the analogies contained within scripture not teach us real truth? As a Clarkian, IF your argument were valid, [Clark’s arguments are valid] you would have just undermined all truths of scripture learned via analogy, anthropomorphism, metaphor, symbolism, etc. You see the irony of a Clarkian doing that? If a Clarkian wants to say that analogous knowledge has no truth value then they have undermined ALL non-didactic/straight historic sections of the scripture as having any truth value.

First, we need to point out again that the Clarkian criticism is not leveled against the use of analogy itself, but rather it is leveled against Van Til’s theory of analogy. If Tyler understood this then he wouldn’t be asking such questions. Tyler stated, “IF your argument were valid [they are valid], you would have just undermined all truths of scripture learned via analogy, anthropomorphism, metaphor, symbolism, etc. You see the irony of a Clarkian doing that right?” The true irony in all this is that it was Van Til’s notion of analogy that undermined “all truths of scripture learned via analogy, anthropomorphism, metaphor, symbolism, etc.” Again, no Clarkian is saying that “analogous knowledge has no truth value” and we have not undermined “ALL non-didactic/straight historic sections of the scripture” because neither Clark nor his followers have rejected the use of analogy or made the claim that it has “no truth value.”

Tyler doesn’t understand the substance of the debate especially when he makes comments like the following:

Just because I don’t believe we have knowledge in the same way that God has knowledge doesn’t entail skepticism, let alone make it “logically necessary.”

This shows once again that Tyler does not grasp the actual issue. Clarkians also “don’t believe we have knowledge in the same way that God has knowledge,” and neither do we believe that this is what will, “entail skepticism, let alone make it ‘logically necessary.’” Dr. Reymond wrote, “It is important to note here that it is not the way that God and human beings know a thing that “The Complaint” declares is different. Both the complaints and Clark agreed that God knows everything by eternal intuition whereas people learn what they know (excluding certain innate ideas) discursively. Rather, insists Van Til and certain of his students, it is the content of man’s knowledge that is qualitatively distinct from God’s knowledge.”[vii]

“The Complaint” which declared, “We dare not maintain that [God’s] knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point,” also stated that it was a “tragic fact” that Clark’s position, “has lead him to obliterate the qualitative distinction between the contents of the divine mind and the knowledge which is possible to the creature.” In other words, Van Til and his cohorts accused Clark of harming the Creator/ creature distinction and insisted that in order to maintain that distinction we must maintain that our knowledge does not coincide with God’s knowledge at any single point. This is what the actual issue was over. So let’s take a closer look at these positions.

The problem that Van Til faced was similar to, if not the same, to that of Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) with respect to his theory of analogy. Aquinas was the first theologian to propose the use of analogy as a way of explaining the relation of being between God and man. This point of criticism against Van Til by way of comparison to Aquinas is nothing new and most well informed Van Tilians are aware of it. Dr. Scott Oliphint has stated the following.

Van Til’s notion of “analogy” or “analogical,” as it applies to knowledge and to predication, is central to his theology and apologetic.  Though the term itself is confusing in that it carries with it a host of assumptions in Thomism, it should not be confused or in any way identified with Thomas’s understanding of analogy.  Though for Thomas there was an analogy of being, for Van Til, the notion of analogy was meant to communicate the ontological and epistemological difference between God and man.  This difference has been expressed historically in terms of an archetypal/ ectypal relationship.[viii]

Despite all attempts by Van Til’s disciples to rescue his theory of analogy from criticism by distinguishing it from that of Thomas Aquinas’ the problem of skepticism still persisted. Let’s take a moment to ask why as we examine the issue. Dr. Oliphint pointed out that for Thomas there was an analogy of being which is to say that he held that nothing can be predicated of God and man in a univocal sense. Dr. Reymond points out, “A given predicate applied to separate subjects [such as God and man] univocally would intend that the subjects possess the predicate in a precisely identical sense.”[ix] This is why we cannot say for example, that both God and man are “intelligent, good or upright” in a univocal sense. This would imply that both God and man possess the predicates “intelligent, good or upright” in a precisely identical sense and Aquinas recognized that this would destroy the Creator-creature distinction.

However, the opposite of univocality is equivocality and it has its own problem. A given predicate applied to separate subjects equivocally would intend that the subjects possess the predicate in a completely unrelated and altogether different sense. Aquinas also understood that to suggest that God and man are “intelligent, good or upright” in a completely equivocal sense would result in utter skepticism for it would be completely ambiguous. In sum, a complete univocality destroys the Creator-creature distinction while a complete equivocality results in skepticism. Therefore, Aquinas proposed the use of “proportionality or analogy” as a third option for univocality and equivocality. This means that when we say, for example, that “God and man are intelligent,” it is analogical in the sense that God’s intelligence is proportional to God’s intelligence as man’s intelligence is proportional to man’s intelligence and it also means that the “intelligence” intended cannot be the same for both God and man. This sounds all well and good until we remember that Aquinas held that nothing could be predicated in the univocal sense between God and man. But why is this a problem? It is because the only thing that can keep an analogy from becoming a complete equivocality is the univocal element that is implicit within it. Dr. Reymond points out,

If I assert that an analogy may be drawn between an apple and an orange, do I not intend to suggest that the apple and the orange, obviously different in some respects, are the same in at least one respect? Why otherwise would I draw attention to the relationship between them? While it is true that the one respect in which I perceive that they are similar will not be immediately apparent to anyone else without further explanation on my part, it should be clear nonetheless to everyone, if I asserted that they are analogous one to the other, that I believe that in some sense a univocal feature exists between them–in this case, it may be that I have in mind that they are both fruit, or that they are both spherical, or that they both have extension in space and have mass. I intend to suggest that, for all their differences, they have something in common.[x]

The same is true for the univocal elements which are implicit in the parable of the sower. Christ was asserting that an analogy can be drawn between a seed and the word of God. To borrow the language of Dr. Reymond, Christ is clearly suggesting to his disciples that the seed and the word of God, although different in many ways, are the same in at least one respect. Why else would he be drawing their attention to them? It is true that the one respect in which Jesus perceive that the seed and the word of God are similar was not immediately apparent to anyone else without further explanation on his part but “it should be clear nonetheless to everyone, if [Christ] asserted that they are analogous one to the other, that [he did] believe that in some sense a univocal feature exist between them.” In this case, it is that both the word of God and the seed must take root and grow in good soil in order to have the proper effects of life, growth and bearing fruit. The univocal features for the rest of the parable are further explained by Christ. For example, the univocal feature between the birds and the devil is that they both come to take away the seed. The univocal feature between those whom the path represents and the path itself is that they both have left the seed open to attack. That is to say that they have heard the word, which has fallen on deaf ears, just as if the seed has fallen on the ground by the wayside. The word of God has not sunk into their hearts and minds just as the seed has not sunk into the ground. These people hear the word of God, do not care, do not meditate on it or think deeply about it, and are altogether intellectually shallow. So then, the word of God, which the seed, represents is left open to attack and the word is easily plucked out by the devil who snatches it away like a bird snatches the seed from the ground.

Is it not obvious then, that for all the differences between these subjects if an analogy is drawn between them then there must be something that is equally true of both of them. It is the predicate that indicates that they have something in common. The problem with Aquinas was that he denied any univocal coincidence in prediction between God and man. Therefore, he could not avoid equivocality because he could not account for the univocal elements within his theory of analogy. Van Til’s view faced the same problem, for he held that all of man’s knowledge was analogical to God’s knowledge and God’s knowledge and our knowledge did not coincide at any single point. This did not allow for any univocal element within his view of analogy and therefore he could avoid total equivocality. Dr. Reymond writes, “It is difficult to see how, with his explicit rejection of the univocal element (see his “corresponds at no single point”) in man’s so-called “analogical” knowledge of God, Van Til can rescue such knowledge from being in actuality a total equivocality and no true knowledge at all. Doug Douma points out that Paul Moser is quoted as saying, “Admittedly, Van Til’s theory of analogy is not identical with that of Thomas; but the distinction between the two is not one that commends Van Til’s theory; for his view if held consistently, implies pure equivocism.”[xi]

To be sure, and to satisfy Tyler’s demands for a syllogism, for otherwise, he may not see the points being made, let’s give another ad hominem reply. Let’s accept the position that Van Til and the other faculty members who signed “The Complaint” put forth for the sake of argument and deduce from it propositions that Tyler would be forced to reject. We can show this by virtue of two Modus Tollens syllogism.

Premise 1: (If P) If man is to knows any truth at all (Then Q) then man’s knowledge must coincide with God’s knowledge at some point for God knows all truth.

Premise 2: (Not Q) Man’s knowledge does not coincide with God’s knowledge at any single point.

Conclusion: (Therefore Not P) Therefore man does not know any truth at all.

 

Premise 1: (If P) If Van Til’s notion of analogy is to keep from becoming a complete equivocality (Then Q) then his notion of analogy must allow for a univocal feature to be contained within an analogy

Premise 2: (Not Q) Van Til’s notion of analogy does not allow for a univocal feature to be contained within an analogy

Conclusion: (Therefore Not P) Therefore Van Til’s notion of analogy cannot keep from becoming a complete equivocality.

Conclusion

Certainly, much more could be said on this but for now this will suffice. It is worth noting that perhaps Aquinas’ theory of analogy could have been salvaged if he instead held that nothing can be predicated of God and man in a completely univocal sense. Perhaps too, Van Til’s theory of analogy could have been salvaged during the controversy if he would have allowed for a point of coincidence between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. Unfortunately, however, that was not the case and it is why Clark said, “Unless the analogy is based on a literal and univocal similarity, there could be no analogy at all. And I would use this argument to pay my respects to Thomas Aquinas and Cornelius Van Til.” (Clark – Language, Truth, and Revelation, Part 1, minute 27)[xii] It is likely that Van Til and the other complainants felt the full weight of Clark’s criticism because they later conceded to his arguments and accepted a “point of contact” between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. They also attempted to change the definition of “content.” Clark’s criticism was utterly devastating![xiii]

It is worth noting that it was here on this hill of analogy that Van Til so fervently fought against the ordination of Gordon Clark. This was the hill the complainants erected and it was the hill they defended during the controversy. Let the reader of this article note that I, a Clarkian, have just used “hill” as an analogy for “theological position.” When we draw out the Van Til position, as established by “The Complaint,” to its logical conclusion we are left with skepticism. This is the Clarkian position and more importantly, it is the Biblical position.

 

 

[i] DOUMA, DOUG J. “The Arguments of The Ordination Controversy.” PRESBYTERIAN PHILOSOPHER. S.l.: WIPF & STOCK PUB, 2017. 112-14. Print.

[ii] Crampton, W. Gary. “Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis.” Trinity Foundation. Trinity Foundation, June-July 2000. Web. 02 June 2017. <http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=128>.

[iii] Til, Cornelius Van. A Survey of Christian Epistemology. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980.Presuppositionalism 101. Web. Apr.-May 2017. <https://presupp101.wordpress.com/downloads/>.

[iv] Clark, Gordon Haddon. God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics. Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2011. Print

[v]. Clark, Gordon Haddon. God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics. Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2011. Print.

[vi] Clark, Gordon Haddon. Logic. Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2004. Print.

[vii] Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Second ed. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2001. Print.

[viii] Til, Cornelius Van, and K. Scott Oliphint. The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2008. 62. Print.

[ix] Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Second ed. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2001. Print.

[x] Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Second ed. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2001. Print.

[xi] DOUMA, DOUG J. “The Arguments of The Ordination Controversy.” PRESBYTERIAN PHILOSOPHER. S.l.: WIPF & STOCK PUB, 2017. 112-14. Print.

[xii] This quote was found by Doug Douma and provide in the footnotes of his book.

[xiii] For more information on the change in Van Til’s position the reader of this article is encouraged to read: DOUMA, DOUG J. “Chapter 8, The Continued Controversy and Its Results.”PRESBYTERIAN PHILOSOPHER. S.l.: WIPF & STOCK PUB, 2017. 157-62. Print.

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