So what exactly is Van Til’s beef with Aquinas? First, there is the issue of Aquinas’s claims about Aristotle contradicting the biblical teaching about man’s depravity. That a pagan like Aristotle, who, according to the Bible, hates God, suppresses natural revelation about God, and worships idols rather than the true God (Rom. 1:18-32, 8:7; Col. 1:21; Eph. 4:18), would develop and promote a rigorous proof of the existence of the true God is something that should be unexpected, if not completely ruled out of the realm of possibility. Second, Van Til argues that when Aristotle’s philosophy is closely examined, along with Aquinas’s use of that philosophy, we find teachings that are anti-Christian concerning the nature of God and the general nature of reality. To explain this, let’s start with a statement by Aquinas on the issue: “But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of the natural reason.” Van Til argues that the oneness of God as conceived by Aristotle logically excludes the Christian God. Aquinas has taken a superficial similarity between the oneness of Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover and the oneness of the biblical God and has failed to realize the contradiction between how each approach understands that oneness. Continue reading
A group of crows is called a murder, a group of owls a parliament, and a group of geese a gaggle. But what do you call a group of strawmen? Reforming Apologetics by J.V. Fesko. I commend the author for a large number of citations to the works of Cornelius Van Til, his main opponent in his defense of Thomistic apologetics; nevertheless, the author’s interactions with Van Til’s writings indicate that he searched for quotes in Van Til’s writings that seemed to support his case against Van Til, but he did not closely read the immediate context of the quotes, much less have a substantial grasp Van Til’s apologetic method as a whole. One of Fesko’s main claims is that Van Til rejected “common notions” between Christians and non-Christians and other ideas related to God’s natural revelation, when in fact Van Til did not reject those ideas. Fesko fails to grasp that Van Til only criticized a particular kind of appeal to common notions made by Aquinas. The strawman argument that Van Til rejected common notions becomes the author’s basis for a factory production of other strawman arguments against Van Til, such as claiming that Van Til claimed that all knowledge comes from the Bible, claimed that all knowledge could be deduced from a single principle, denied a nature/grace distinction, and that Van Til’s argument for God’s existence does not address the correspondence of our ideas to the order of the natural world. In this supposed refutation of Van Til in defense of Aquinas, Fesko never states Van Til’s actual argument against Aquinas. Fesko also never states Van Til’s transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG), not even in a rough outline form, so the book also fails as a general refutation of Van Til’s apologetic program. Continue reading
“Why do some Christian leaders constantly warn of God’s impending judgment? Why would a Christian believe God judges nations at all? New Testament authors along with Jesus spoke of a once-for-all final judgment .” Andy Stanley, Irresistible (91).
Why? Because the Bible says so. Jesus is “the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5), the “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Many modern Christians would argue that these titles are given to Him prospectively – that the title reflects a role that he will take up only after the Great Tribulation. But that option is foreclosed to Pastor Stanley because he takes the view (correctly) that the Great Tribulation happened already in A.D. 70, which was when the Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. When writing the sentence quoted above, Pastor Stanley must have forgotten what he previously affirmed in his book, that God sent judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, after the resurrection of Christ. (62-65) Continue reading
Pastor Andy Stanley says in his book Irresistible that Christians should “unhitch” the Old Testament from their Christian faith. These words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seem to say the opposite, incorporating the Old Testament law into the New Covenant:
17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
In Pastor Andy Stanley’s attempt to prove that the Christian can ignore the Old Testament in his book Irresistible, he claims that “Love your neighbor” is a new command by Jesus that sets New Testament ethics apart from Old Testament ethics. He then qualifies this, but the qualifications still don’t fully acknowledge the Old Testament basis for the teaching.
Pastor Andy Stanley wants to be rid of having to defend the Old Testament. The thrust of his book is that he sees the Old Testament as an unnecessary drag on the New Testament gospel, so he wants to unhitch the Old Testament from the New, allowing the gospel of the New Covenant to sail on unimpeded. But his approach is a copout, a lazy and shallow way to deal with the apologetic issues raised by the Old Testament. Don’t like the Old Testament? Pastor Stanley says to just pretend that it’s not part of the Bible! His approach misrepresents what the New Testament teaches and diminishes the power of the gospel. His approach to apologetics represents the failure of the popular approach to Christian apologetics to defend the truthfulness of the Bible. Continue reading
A Review of Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2008).
I recently read Edward Feser’s book, The Last Superstition, because someone who claimed to be a former Van Tilian said it was the book that converted him to Thomism. Cornelius Van Til often criticized Aristotle, and criticized Aquinas for relying on Aristotle, and criticized Classical apologetics in general. As the subtitle indicates, Feser’s book is directed at refuting atheism, not Van Til. It should be no surprise, then, that Feser does not identify Van Til and respond to his criticisms of Aquinas. My conclusion after reading the book is that Feser does not even incidentally provide a refutation of Van Til’s criticism of Aquinas. Nevertheless, because there is a great deal of debate over what exactly Van Til found wrong with Aquinas, Feser’s book provides a convenient way to compare and contrast Thomistic apologetics with Van Til’s presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics. Continue reading
Here is a link to a guest post that I wrote: https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/guest-post-in-opposing-naturalism-in-science-the-bible-is-more-foundational-than-design/
I contrast this graph from Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute (see here), which marginalizes the issue of what the Bible says about the age of the earth:
. . . with mine, based on these questions:
- Are the Metaphysical Beliefs Consistent with Design in Nature?
- Do the Metaphysical Beliefs Entail Rejection of a Naturalistic Epistemology?
- Do the Metaphysical Beliefs Require Divine Revelation?
- Are the Metaphysical Beliefs Consistent with Absolutely Authoritative Revelation about Creation?
A common view is that the light that God created on day one of the creation week was a light without a natural source. This understanding is a major reason given by Christians who advocate an old earth, Big Bang model to argue that the days of Genesis 1 are not meant to be taken literally. They argue that the absurdity of the existence of day and night on earth before the sun existed as a light source is a signal to the reader that Genesis 1 is a poetic description of creation that is not meant to say anything about literal chronology during creation. One old-earth advocate even complains that God would not create light on day one and then replace it with the sun three days later because that “seems unlike the actions of an all-wise God.” Who is he to tell God that His way creating light is not very smart? At any rate, an explanation of the creation of non-solar light on day one that shows how it is consistent with the other creation acts in Genesis 1 would add to the reasonableness of God creating light in that way and add to the reasonableness of the literal view of Genesis in general. Continue reading
New Atlantis illustration by Lowell Hess
Point 5 (continued): Postmillennialism was an important influence in the Scientific Revolution. Postmillennialism supports the argument for the Christian basis for science since postmillennialism was an important influence in the Scientific Revolution.
The founder of British empiricism and experimentation, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), concluded his famous book on experimental method, Novum Organum, by saying:
For man, by the fall, fell at the same time from his state of innocency and from his dominion over creation. Both of these losses however can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences. For creation was not by the curse made altogether and for ever a rebel, but in virtue of the charter, ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,’ it is now by various labours (not certainly by disputation or magical ceremonies, but by various labours) at length and in some measure subdued to the supplying of man with bread; that is, to the uses of human life.