Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We can actually know God's truth

One source of skepticism stems from certain understandings of Vantillian epistemology. Now, after reading concerning the Reformed Scholastics and Van Til's works, I can see where Cornelius Van Til was trying to be orthodox. Nevertheless, my concern here is that I think he is not a good communicator of Reformed doctrine concerning the knowledge of God, in my opinion. The idea of "God's knowledge" and "Man's knowledge" being qualitatively different, with "no point of contact" between the two, seeks to convey historic Reformed doctrine on the difference between God and Man, yet it does so in such a way that I believe obfuscates the true doctrine it desires to convey. While those with background in Reformed orthodoxy might interpret such language correctly (in an orthodox manner), yet for those without such a background, I fear what such words and phrases convey skepticism concerning the Christian faith. The reasoning by such people is that, if God's knowledge and Man's knowledge have no point of contact, therefore we cannot know anything about God, since all we have is necessarily "always false." While some in the Reformed orthodox camp can stay in their ivory towers, they just might want to see how the careless words and phrases they use are (mis)understood by people on the ground, especially by those without any background in theology or the Reformed tradition!

Coming from a Clarkian background, reading the works of Gordon H. Clark, I have found Willem Van Asselt's article on the theology of Franciscus Junius to be illuminating. Unlike Van Til, van Asselt and Junius write clearly. After reading that, I have found a way of understanding the core orthodox truth that Van Til was trying to defend, and put it in a way that I believe is much more understandable and certainly orthodox. Thus, I had written an article here, in which I have striven to show how Clark's concerns could be synthesized with the concerns of Van Til and the Reformed orthodox so that both sides can be assured that the dangers they perceive in the other side are eradicated. Do I believe that proponents from both sides can be persuaded to put down their weapons? That would be rather naive, but at least there should be a way forward, to produce light instead of heat.

The archetypal/ ectypal distinction preserves the Creator/ creature distinction. There is no "point of contact" between the archetype in God and the ectype in Man. Yet, this model safeguards against skepticism as well. For we note that there are actually two "points of contacts," but these are not between the archetypal knowledge of God and the ectypal knowledge of Man, for such would compromise the Creator/ creature distinction.

The first point of contact is within God Himself. God's archetypal knowledge and God's ectypal knowledge meet as one is a reflection of the other. The two meet ... in the person and mind of God. Quite obviously, since they meet in the mind of God, we finite human beings are not privy to how that happens. But the meeting is important, if just to show that God is not schizophreniac. God does not have an ectypal knowledge that is contradictory to His archetypal knowledge, but rather His ectypal knowledge is in some sense a faithful reflection of His archetypal knowledge. The two bodies of knowledge do not conflict with each other, for there is perfect harmony in God. We do not have to worry that, even though we cannot know God's archetypal knowledge, therefore God's archetypal knowledge will contradict His ectypal knowledge, for that will never happen at all.

The second point of contact is between God's ectypal knowledge with our human ectypal knowledge. God communicates, God reveals to us, knowledge. Truth is the correspondence of our ectypal knowledge with a section of God's ectypal knowledge that He Himself reveals to us. We do not have a point of contact with God's archetypal knowledge, but we do have a point of contact with God's revelation. When God reveals that Jesus Christ is the propitiation of our sins, we actually can know the proposition "Jesus Christ is the propitiation of our sins." With this point of contact, we do not have to worry that our knowledge is false. Yes, it is not archetypal knowledge, but it corresponds to God's ectypal knowledge, and therefore it is true. God's word is truth, and we do not have to worry that we are believing in falsehood just because our knowledge is ectypal.

Therefore, we should not have to worry about skepticism based upon intemperate language about how our language about God is always false. No, our knowledge and language about God can be trusted. We CAN know God's truth! Do not be deceived by pious nonsense about how we are to know our place as creatures, for God has spoken and we can know that! Is it faith or the lies of the Devil that will cause us to doubt the possibility of knowing God who is communicating to us His words? Surely it is the latter! When God gives us His Word, He actually intends for us to be able to understand it, and whoever says otherwise is a tool of the Devil!

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