Question re: Van Tillian presuppostionalism and contradictions

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Davidius, Jun 24, 2007.

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  1. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Van Til denied that the paradox (aka apparent contradiction is avoided by 3 in person, 1 in essense). I agree (it just pushes the paradox back a step, nothing is resolved). One can maintain that God is one person and three persons and say that the sense of person is different and maintain that it is all an apparent contradiction.

    The point of the term "apparent contradiction" is to say that two propositions are not contradictory, but I do not know how to spell them out so that they cease to look contradictory.

    It really just seems that you do not know what the term "apparent contradiction" means or when it is supposed to be used.

  2. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    I think you missed the point. If it were as simply as "person" being used in different senses, then Van Til could not say there was an apparent contradiction. You have resolved any appearance of contradiction by saying (as Van Til clearly does not) that is simply a matter of different senses of the term "person". There has to be a sense in which "person" is used in the same sense for both God and the three persons of the Trinity at the same time. Otherwise there is no appearance of contradiction.

    And you need to also account that the Doctrine of the Trinity is the product of Scriptural interpretation. If Scripture can not contradict itself, then, as Rev. Winzer pointed out, no correct Scriptural doctrine contradict itself. Van Til insisted in formulating the Doctrine of the Trinity in a explicitly contradictory manner.

    Also keep in mind the VT had another issue he was trying to resolve - the Greek problem of "the one and the many". This issue was central to VT's theology and was one of the reasons he insisted on the explicit contradiction of God being both three and one.

    VT's apparent contradictions are there because he believed that they could not be resolved. "Person" in different senses resolves the contradiction so it's not what VT was thinking.
  3. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Let me quote myself from above.

    "One can maintain that God is one person and three persons and say that the sense of person is different and maintain that it is all an apparent contradiction." So the ball is in your court to show that such is a wrong application of the term apparent contradiction.

    Go ahead and google the term, and show us what you come up with.

    Easily done.


    Nothing you have shown thus far has justified such a position.

    There is no explicit contradiction. This is really getting tiring. What is the difference between an apparent contradiction and a regular real contradiction.

    It does not resolve anything. It just pushes it back a step.

  4. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    What is wrong with it....
    The answer is in the fact that you had the ask what is the difference. And the answer is not that one is real and the other is not real.

    Tell me this, what makes the doctrine of the Trinity appear to be a contradiction? It only appears to be a contradiction if you formulate it as VT did, "God is one person and three persons." That's what Frame called Van Til's "apparent contradiction". Why? Why is that an apparent contradiction.

    You said earlier
    But how is this an apparent contradiction? Think about it.

    If I said that this apple is both red and green - this would be an apparent contradiction. Right? But the resolution of the contradiction is easily resolved. The apple has both colors but at different places on it's skin. It is not both red and green in the same places (i.e. in the same sense).

    Now take Van Til's "God is one person and three persons". Same thing? God is one person and three persons, but not in the same sense. Right? ... Wrong. Because for Van Til, the apparent contradictions could not be resolved by the mind of man. Why, because God is three persons and one person in the same sense. Had Van Til simply said "but this is person in different senses", then he would not have conflicted with Gordon Clark. The "different senses" is the Clarkian solution. Van Til rejected your definition of "apparent contradiction" because you have given a rational and easily comprehended resolution -- you have given the Clarkian solution. Van Til did not allow for your solution.
  5. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior


    It doesn't make sense for person A to not be able to see the P does not entail ~Q unless he first sees how it does. You definition would make more sense if it were:

    Apparent Contradiction: P and Q are apparent contradictions to person A if and only if person A sees that it is the case that P entails ~Q or that Q entails ~P.

    The term "sees" in in the definition is too vague. What does "sees" mean? And how is it that person A does not see how something does not lead to a contradiction. It only makes sense if he believes that it does lead to a contradiction.

    And for Van Til, an apparent contradiction was not a matter of person A not being able to see how P might not entails ~Q, but that person a CAN NOT see how P might not entails ~Q. For VT, there is no humanly achievable answer to the "apparent contradiction" of the Trinity. It was not resolvable to the mind of man - so we have to embrace both P and Q with passion.
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    (HT: Paul)

    Clark was only able to "resolve" any paradox in the trinity by putting forth a form of modalism. He did the same with the hypostatic union - he put forth a neo-nestorainism (Crist was two persons). So, anyone can "resolve" logical tensions by denying orthodoxy. Case in point: Open theists and their denial of sovereignty.

    The problem isn't resolving contradictions, the problem is resolving them *while mainaining orthodoxy.*

    "Therefore, since God is Truth, we shall define person…as a composite of truths…theologians will complain that this reduces the Trinity to one person…This objection is based on a blindness toward certain definite Scriptural information…I am referring to the complex of truths that form the Three Persons. Though they are equally omniscient, they do not all know the same truths. Neither the complex of truths we call the Father nor those we call the Spirit, has the proposition, “I was incarnated.” …The Father cannot say, “I walked from Jerusalem to Jericho."

    G. Clark, The Incarnation (The Trinity Foundation 1988), 54-55."

    Steve Hays points out about that quote:

    "Notice how, according to this framework, the individuating principle which differentiates one person of the Godhead from another consists in existential propositions concerning the economic Trinity. And that conduces straight to modalism. On such a view, the Trinitarian relations are contingent rather than necessary."

    And, let's note that *Scripture* is paradoxical since it frequently refers to "God" as a "person," while not designating *which* person is being referred to. The only way to get past that is to go *beyond* the Scriptural data and import *extra-biblical* information just so you can "resolve" logical tensions. Therefore the Clarkian's victory is merely the victory of a child who constantly rigs the rules of four-square so he can finally "win" the game. And, according to his rules, extra-biblical information doesn't count. Besides, you may want to inquire how Clark knew all that. I mean, where does Scripture define a "person" as a "composite of truths?" And, that's a bunch of propositions. So, our great God is a bunch of propositions.
  7. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Very interesting. Why would that be the case?

    And what is this contradiction that needs to be resolved. There is not contradiction in "one in essence and three in person". Nor is there a contradiction in "Jesus was both fully man and fully God". So where is the contradiction in the first place?
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Probably not one. I don't see CVT's system as contradictory. But there are places in the Bible where the Bible refers to God (Father, Son or Holy Spirit?) as "Person."
  9. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Anthony,

    I think my time here at PB is going to become very limited. As such, I will not be able to carry on this discussion too much longer. I will have a little more time at our site.

    My definition makes perfect sense, and I would like to stay with it because it captures that particular instance I am concerned about. Since your objection does not concern logical validity, I do not feel the need to adjust my definition. You will see in a moment how it fits well with particular concrete issues.

    I would be more than happy to clarify what I mean by ‘see.’ In my definition, you can equate ‘see’ with ‘understand.’ Abstractly, I may not understand how it is not the case that P --> ~Q, but still rationally believe that it is not the case that P --> ~Q. (Notice, understanding and belief are distinct. There are a lot of things I do not understand, but yet believe.) If I do not understand how it is not the case that P --> ~Q, but for some reason believe P and Q, then by my definition I hold to an apparent contradiction. A concrete example if this is the Trinity. I do not understand how it is not the case that one being (P) does not necessarily entail one person (~Q). Yet, I believe that God is one being (P) and that God is three persons (Q). By definition, I hold to an apparent contradiction…and so do you. ;)

    As for Van Til, I am more concerned with the concept of apparent contradiction that I have provided. You have challenged my concept, and I think my concept is sound.

    Two things here: (1) "one in essence (P)" and "three in persons (Q)" are apparent contradictions if you do not understand how it is not the case that "one in essence" does not necessarily entail "one in person." If you say, I do not understand why it is not the case, but because of revelation I believe it is not the case, then you hold to an apparent contradiction. This also applies to the the Hypostatic union: "one in person" and "two in nature" versus "one person entails one nature." (2) The issue becomes even more convoluted (again not in a prejorative sense) when you add the Hypostatic Union to the Trinity. We have one God in essence (being) made up of three persons, one of which has two natures. If one of the natures is God, then what is this God? Is this the same God when we say Jesus is one person in the being God? Or, when we say Jesus is 100% God and 100% man, is Jesus being God different in this sense than Jesus being God in being? Is Jesus one being, two beings or three beings? I have asked you to dive into this. So far you have not done so. I think if you would dive into this, then my definition of apparent contradiction would become even more apparent to you. ;)

    Your Friend,

  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    And CVT agreed with that. Frame does thorough analysis on this point in his CVT book. But CVT (and Frame) are trying to answer tough questions.

    when you break it down and explain yourself the problems arise.

    Is "God" a personal being? If there's one God does this imply that there's one person? Or, if there are three numerically distinct persons, each fully divine, does this imply that there are three Gods? Is the idenity between the persons generic idenity or numeric idenity? Church history has seen each type of identity beset with problems. Is the "essence" impersonal? Is it tri-personal? So the essence is personal and the persons are personal?
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Robert Reymond gives a nice little summary of what Van Tillians mean when talking about paradoxes. Gary Crampton praises Reymond's dislike for "apparent contradictions" but in the quote below it looks as if we have our own "apparent contradiction: in either Reymond himself, or Crampton's review of Reymond! Says Reymond,

    "Everywhere we look in Holy Scripture
    , we find both destiny and contingency. We are well-used to the age old problem created by the competing emphasis of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, predestination and free will, election and covenant. But in whatever terms we describe this biblical plarity, there can be no question that these dialectical emphases lie face up and side by side on virtually every page of holy Scripture. The integration of these two themes is the problem of Christian soteriology. Numerous attempts have been made to provide an account of the Bible's theology of salvation in which they are reconciled, but in all such attempts one truth invariably suffers at the expense of the other. ... Holy Scripture presents us with interacting ideas that, at least to finite minds, seem to be in conflict with one another, or at the very least seem impossible to harmonize." - Robert Reymond, "Parental Conditions and the Promise of Grace to the Children of Believers (orignially prinited in 1996)," in "To You And Your Children: Examining The Biblical Doctrine of Covenant Succession," ed. Benjamin K. Wikner, 2005, p.3, emphasis mine.

    If a Van Tillian had said something like that the Clarkians would call for his spiritual execution! He would be called "irrational," and "neo-modern." Now, where are the Clarkians in response to Robert Reymond? Is he too a "heretic?" Is he too the "root of Auburn Avenue Theology?" Is he an "irrationalist?"
  12. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    How tough?
    Depends on what you mean by "God" and personal being. God "the Father" is a person. What does "being" mean?
    No. There are three persons. That is clear according to the reformed formulation of the Trinity.
    No. There is only one true God, who is one in essence, and three in persons.
    What's the difference?
    Maybe. Does it matter? It is not a "person". But since God is three in person, isn't God personal. What do you mean by impersonal?
    God is three in person. I don't know what "tri-personal" means.
    So? That does not mean the essence is a person and the three are persons. There are three persons.
    [bible]Mat 3:16-17[/bible] Not one person, but three persons.

    I don't see these as difficult questions so much as speculative ones. I think the problem is a matter of understanding the point of the Scriptures claim that there is only "one God". It isn't a metaphysical or mystical claim, it merely a point of fact that all other "gods" are false. The Hebrews were not worried about the "oneness" of God, but the fact that the God of Abraham, Issac, and Moses, is the only true God. They already knew there was a plurality of persons in God from Genesis. [bible]gen 1:26[/bible]

    The "one and the many" issue is a Greek metaphysical problem because they had trouble describing the nature of reality: (There are many cats, but what is the essence of cat that makes all cats cats. Is there a single universal true definition of cat that is the reality that defines cats? Do universal propositions exist? Yadda, yadda, yadda. ) But for the Hebrews, this is not an issue. Reality (as far as we have it) is the simply product of the Creator of all things. They did not have to explain reality by solving the "one and the many" paradox. The paradox is foreign to Judaism and Christianity. And the imposition of the "one and the many" on the Christian worldview has lead to this need for a "one and many" divine answer.

    So this speculation regarding the "essence" (other than one substance, power, and eternity WCF 2:3)) of one God, or how can God be both one and three is really a Greek worldview paradigm being imposed on Christianity. God is three in person, one in substance, power and eternity. There is no contradiction here, and any speculation that produces a contradiction is in error. Any speculation that does not lead to a contradiction is still speculative.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2007
  13. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    *Edited by author*
  14. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Nah. He just had a VT moment. Nobody's perfect. He's redeemed himself elsewhere.
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