Is Scripture “Worthy To Be Believed?” The Contribution of Cornelius Van Til To The Debate -- By: Douglas E. Chismar

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 11:0 (NA 1978)
Article: Is Scripture “Worthy To Be Believed?” The Contribution of Cornelius Van Til To The Debate
Author: Douglas E. Chismar

Is Scripture “Worthy To Be Believed?”
The Contribution of Cornelius Van Til
To The Debate

Douglas E. Chismar

The ancient dilemma of the relation of faith to reason has resurfaced in our time with the clash between the so-called “autopistic” and “axiopistic” views of Scripture. Involved is the question of Reason’s role in the process of coming to belief in the Scriptures as God’s written Word. Though the dispute has primarily ensued within the evangelical camp, its significance should be seen to extend far beyond such confines, particularly in the light of twentieth century philosophical interest in verification, falsification, theory assessment, the nature of pre-theoretical commitments and the like. To what extent do the Christian belief claims concerning the ultimate origin, contents and efficacy of the Bible embrace intellectually identifiable consequences?

Let us observe, first of all, the contemporary controversy between the autopistic and axiopistic views of Scripture. Having reviewed the positions, we shall survey Van Til’s contribution to the debate, and then consider his position as a possible via media between the seemingly irreconcilable camps.

The Positions

By “autopistic”, we mean that Scripture is seen as having the capability to generate, from within itself, its own reception and belief. As John Murray, a noted proponent of the position, has written: “This is just saying that Scripture evidences itself to be the Word of God; its divinity is self-authenticating.”1

Scripture manifests and overtly claims the “quality of divinity,” this often being termed the “external testimony” or “objective witness.”2 This, however, is deemed insufficient in itself, due to the noetic effects of sin, blinding the eyes and minds of unbelievers.3 Hence, in the sovereignty of God, with the external testimony comes the testimonium Spiritu sancti, the “internal testimony” of the Spirit in the hearts of those whose eyes are being opened. It is this internal testimony or “subjective witness” which guarantees the reception of Scripture as the Word of God, attesting to what is written and conditioning the spiritual ground into which the seed of truth is sown. There is thus an inner and outer side to the process of self-authentication; the proponents of the position point this out as the distinguishing mark between what they believe, and subjectivism or an “encounter” theology of revelation.4


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