A Preliminary Critique of “ Van Til: The Theologian” A Review Article -- By: Jim S. Halsey

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:1 (Fall 1976)
Article: A Preliminary Critique of “ Van Til: The Theologian” A Review Article
Author: Jim S. Halsey

A Preliminary Critique of “
Van Til: The Theologian”
A Review Article

Jim Halsey

[John M. Frame, Van Til: The Theologian. Phillipsburg (N.J.): Pilgrim Publishing Co., 1976. 38. Paper, $.95.]

[Mr. Halsey is a graduate student in philosophy at Villanova University.]

At the very heart of Dr. Van Til’s apologetic and therefore of his theology lies his notion of analogy. One can scarcely think of a more important element in his entire thought than the doctrine of analogical thinking. Nor can one think of a doctrine which has been more misunderstood and more frequently misinterpreted in the whole Van Til corpus than this concept. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that if one gives up, or if one misunderstands Van Til’s philosophy of “reasoning analogically,” then one must also give up, or unrecognizably distort, the presuppositional apologetic and the Reformed theology upon which it is built. Such being the case, any time spent in attempting to sort through this doctrine will be well spent.

Our discussion will fall under two major heads: (a) an exposition of Van Til’s doctrine of analogy; (b) a critique of Professor Frame’s interpretation of the doctrine. By pursuing the issue of analogy in the above manner, we hope to place in the sharpest possible light Van Til’s own development of analogy in comparison and/or contrast with that given in Van Til: The Theologian.

A. Van Til’s Doctrine of Analogy

To begin, it should be emphasized at the very outset of our discussion that Van Til builds his doctrine of analogy upon ontological considerations, as these considerations are taught in the Holy Scriptures. This point bears re-emphasis, for there are two things we must notice if we are to conceive analogy aright.

First, Van Til begins his development of the

analogical-epistemological question from a prior notion of being, or ontology. This is to say, Van Til does not initially ask the question, “How do we as men know?”; rather, he begins by asking, “Who is the original Knower?” Now, to be sure, the epistemological question is involved; but it finds its proper place under the broader and more fundamental category of ontology. However, we must also observe where and how Van Til arrives at this first and most important question. This leads us to the second point we must consider if we are to understand the doctrine of analogy.

Second, Van Til derives his ontological point of departure from the Scriptures. These Scriptures, Van Til asserts, are self-authoritative and self-authenticating. It is from them and from them alone that any tr...

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