Van Til on Norman Shepherd

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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
This is a very interesting interview of Van Til by Peter Lillback. I didn't know where to post it, but since it deals somewhat with Norman Shepherd I thought to post it here. Also I think Van Til is wrong about Shepherd's orthodoy. What is interesting about this interview is his take on WTS and Clowney. He blames the opposition to Shepherd on what he perceives as a shift from the historic Reformed faith to a broader evangelical theology he sees in Clowney. How close to the mark is he on WTS and Clowney? And might that tell us about the whole Shepherd affair?
http://www.trinity-pres.net/essays/ns06-InterviewWithJimPaytonJackSawyerPeterLillback.pdf
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
I humbly disagree with CVT on many points. He comes across rather arrogant and less than gracious. Here is what I find rather disturbing the most:

«
Dr. VanTil do you think that the current developmEnt at Westminster
is really a departure from what Westminster was founded to do?
(vT I definitely do.
"JP Do you view Westminster now as a place where that historic Reformed faith
in all its richness is not now communicated faithfUlly?
CV'T That's right. But I'm hoping and praying there will be a revival of
the Reformed faith according toB.B .Warfield, Ger.hardus Vos, C.W.Hodge,
J. Gresham Machen, John Murray and Norman Shepher LOL»
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I humbly disagree with CVT on many points. He comes across rather arrogant and less than gracious. Here is what I find rather disturbing the most:

«
Dr. VanTil do you think that the current developmEnt at Westminster
is really a departure from what Westminster was founded to do?
(vT I definitely do.
"JP Do you view Westminster now as a place where that historic Reformed faith
in all its richness is not now communicated faithfUlly?
CV'T That's right. But I'm hoping and praying there will be a revival of
the Reformed faith according toB.B .Warfield, Ger.hardus Vos, C.W.Hodge,
J. Gresham Machen, John Murray and Norman Shepher LOL»
Yeah I got the same impression. Isn't Peter Lillback the current president of WTS Philadelphia?
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
If someone were trying to make a primary source cryptic, frustrating, and obscure, it seems unlikely that a better method could have been adopted than what was employed here.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
If someone were trying to make a primary source cryptic, frustrating, and obscure, it seems unlikely that a better method could have been adopted than what was employed here.
Tell me about it. It is like he didn't even try to make it readable. There must be a better version out there but I can't find it. Also didn't Van Til die before The Call of Grace was written?
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
Did he move the school back to the Reformed tradition or was Van Til wrong about what he thought he saw happening?
I think Van Til was generally wrong. It wasn'T just Clowney who thought Shepherd was wrong, other reformed theologians and preachers called him out including: Roger Nicole, RC Sproul, MLJ, Robert Reymond (ok not the best theologian, but still respected), Hendrickson, Kline, etc. Say what you want, but Roger Nicole read Bavinck before it was cool way back in 1938.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Certain things seem apparent. One is that Dr. Van Til is rambling quite a bit. With the imperfect state of the transcript, at any rate, there are many connections between questions and answers that don't really become obvious.

Second is that Van Til seems to be understanding all of this conflict in terms of an antithesis. On the one side you have the Dutch, Van Til himself, Norm Shepherd, the first generation of Westminster professors, and a reformed view. On the other side you have evangelicalism, Clowney, Adams, Conn, Clark, Schaeffer - the Americans. It's as though opposition to any one point involved opposition to the whole system. But I think it's at least open to serious question whether that is the right way to draw the dividing line in this particular area. Shepherd has not been universally received among the Dutch; people who oppose Shepherd also hate evangelicalism, and so forth.

Third, I thought it quite amusing that Van Til would say Norm Shepherd was clear. It's like John Owen making a stylistic judgment - in both cases the extant literary remains suggest that this was not a particular forte.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Certain things seem apparent. One is that Dr. Van Til is rambling quite a bit. With the imperfect state of the transcript, at any rate, there are many connections between questions and answers that don't really become obvious.
Yeah I wonder how old he was when this was done.


Second is that Van Til seems to be understanding all of this conflict in terms of an antithesis. On the one side you have the Dutch, Van Til himself, Norm Shepherd, the first generation of Westminster professors, and a reformed view. On the other side you have evangelicalism, Clowney, Adams, Conn, Clark, Schaeffer - the Americans. It's as though opposition to any one point involved opposition to the whole system. But I think it's at least open to serious question whether that is the right way to draw the dividing line in this particular area. Shepherd has not been universally received among the Dutch; people who oppose Shepherd also hate evangelicalism, and so forth.
Yeah that is classic Van Til. I agree with him on evangelicalism but not on Shepherd. Also he seemed to not allow any criticism from an opposing view point to have any legitamacy. Its almost like your coming from position X, any non-reformed position, therefore you can't be right. Well thats bad logic on his part, I think Frame is dead on when he criticizes Van Til on this point. That is a good point on the mixed reception of dutch theologians to Shepherd.




Third, I thought it quite amusing that Van Til would say Norm Shepherd was clear. It's like John Owen making a stylistic judgment - in both cases the extant literary remains suggest that this was not a particular forte.
Yeah, if he was so clear why was there the contraversy to begin with. If I am correct didn't he become "clearer" after he was fired in The Call of Grace, written I think after Van Til died or was to old to care.
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
When was this interview. As I recall from older ministers, Van Til was on some medication for a while that impaired his thinking for a few years. They finally changed meds near the end of his life. Can anyone verify?
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
When was this interview. As I recall from older ministers, Van Til was on some medication for a while that impaired his thinking for a few years. They finally changed meds near the end of his life. Can anyone verify?
I can't but surely Lillback would have known that.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I humbly disagree with CVT on many points. He comes across rather arrogant and less than gracious. Here is what I find rather disturbing the most:

«
Dr. VanTil do you think that the current developmEnt at Westminster
is really a departure from what Westminster was founded to do?
(vT I definitely do.
"JP Do you view Westminster now as a place where that historic Reformed faith
in all its richness is not now communicated faithfUlly?
CV'T That's right. But I'm hoping and praying there will be a revival of
the Reformed faith according toB.B .Warfield, Ger.hardus Vos, C.W.Hodge,
J. Gresham Machen, John Murray and Norman Shepher LOL»
I'm not sure how this interview supports a charge of arrogance. Certainly testimony from those who knew him is that he was not arrogant.

The critical point in what you quote, of course, is that Shepherd is not quite the same as B.B. Warfield - and Warfield himself was not wholly an exponent of the confessional doctrines on all points.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
CVT was born in 1895 so this interview was when he was in his 80s and he was not always coherent during those years, as suggested by Shawn Mathis (hi, brother!).

Norman gave the lectures at Erskine (from which COG came) in 1998 or 9, and his denial of the IAOC was later (in Backbone of the Bible). It was not until then that Gaffin and others made the definitive break.

It is the case that many opposed him (like Kuschke, Godfrey, Hughes, Robertson, et al) when Clowney supported initially. CVT's concern with Clowney is not without warrant: Clowney is the one who moved WTS from being more distinctly Reformed to more evangelical. This was an intentional, accross the spectrum development, but ultimately involving the Shepherd controversy.

CVT saw Norman, over against, say, the New-Lifers and more broadly evangelical folk coming to WTS, as following the Old Paths. In my view, he did not really see where what Norm was doing might lead. Gaffin did not see. I'm not sure that Norm saw. I think that he developed over time.

This is why it is good to understand development with respect to these sorts of things.

Peace,
Alan
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
CVT was born in 1895 so this interview was when he was in his 80s and he was not always coherent during those years, as suggested by Shawn Mathis (hi, brother!).

Norman gave the lectures at Erskine (from which COG came) in 1998 or 9, and his denial of the IAOC was later (in Backbone of the Bible). It was not until then that Gaffin and others made the definitive break.

It is the case that many opposed him (like Kuschke, Godfrey, Hughes, Robertson, et al) when Clowney supported initially. CVT's concern with Clowney is not without warrant: Clowney is the one who moved WTS from being more distinctly Reformed to more evangelical. This was an intentional, accross the spectrum development, but ultimately involving the Shepherd controversy.

CVT saw Norman, over against, say, the New-Lifers and more broadly evangelical folk coming to WTS, as following the Old Paths. In my view, he did not really see where what Norm was doing might lead. Gaffin did not see. I'm not sure that Norm saw. I think that he developed over time.

This is why it is good to understand development with respect to these sorts of things.

Peace,
Alan
Thanks for that Alan. Did Lillback move the seminary back to its historic reformed theology? In what I hear of him I would say yes.
 
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