Introduction to Systematic Theology (Van til)

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Puritanboard Clerk
Worth reading but not as a beginning (Or intermediate) text. I'll highlight some of his key points, note some problems, and then give my own thoughts.

Van Til's method can be summarized as thinking God's thoughts after him in an analogical way (we receptively reconstruct God's own preinterpreted facts).

Note: I love the language about "receptively reconstructive." Van Til doesn't really develop what that means. There is also the problem of preinterpreted facts. If we bring our own interpretation to everything, wouldn't we also be interpreting the God-based preinterpreted facts? Would they still be preinterpreted? It doesn't seem so.

He builds his system around the following:

1) God's being and knowledge are coterminous. If God’s knowledge is not coterminous with his being, then it is a correlative of his being. This being is then given a potentiality of its own. No more internally complete knowledge. Hence the open and finite god of non-Reformed systems.

2) The principle of individuation lies within the Godhead. Only there are facts correlative and brute factuality ruled out.

Note: Maybe. I'm hesitant to "bite down" on that view, though.

3) Van Til struggles with the 1 and 3 of the Godhead, particularly in terminology. Persons are mutually exhaustive of each other, but what does that mean? He says we “speak of God as a person” (220). Is this necessarily modalism? Maybe not. Whenever God confronts us in Scripture, he speaks as one person. That could be what Van Til means. I say "could be" what he means. As far as I can tell, he doesn't flesh it out.

While I criticize Van Til on the Trinity, on one level he just exploited an ambiguity in the definition of person . Indeed, for Eastern Patristic thought there cannot be a definition of person, because a person is what is uniquely particular about an individual and resists a universal definition. Even more, Patristic definitions of person, such as they were, did not include self-consciousness and mind. Modern definitions of persons do. This isn’t to say the latter is correct, but it does highlight our problem today of speaking about persons.

Of course, if I were speaking of the Trinity I would never use this language. Not under any circumstances. I know what he is getting at, though.

4) Beware of Beginning with Bad Abstractions. We should not think of “Being” in an abstract, empty way.
An abstract “way of negation” is a convenient tool for the sinner to remove the positive demands God makes on him. If one uses the way of negation before the way of eminence (ala Rome), then one ends up with a finite god.

We lose the aseity of God when we begin with abstract concepts of being. Such abstractness makes God/being a correlative with other being(s).

If we “negate” simply by removing the creatureliness of a property--time and space-- and then applying that to God, we do not get the infinity of god. We get emptiness (211)


This book suffers from the usual defects, if such they are. He moves too quickly and key points aren't always elucidated. Still, if you work through what he is saying and continually reference Greek thought and Bavinck, many gems are within.
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