Thus every bit of knowledge on the part of man is derivative and reinterpretative. This is what we mean by saying that man's knowledge is analogical.
— Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 2nd Ed. (ed. by William Edgar; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007), p. 34
Van Til's concept of analogy is alluded to throughout his writings. Because God is the Creator, we cannot know univocally (as he does), yet neither do we know equivocally (never the truth). Instead we know analogically, by thinking God's thoughts after him. This is quite different from Thomas's [Aquinas] use of analogy, which amounts to a middle way between univocal and equivocal knowledge, whereby we may climb up closer to God's being without ever knowing his essence.
— Editor, Ibid., p. 97 footnote 41
As indicated at the outset of this work, we speak of all forms of reasoning in which man is assumed to be the final or ultimate reference point of predication in univocal reasoning. In contrast to this we speak of the form of reasoning employed by the Christian who recognizes that God is the ultimate reference point of predication as analogicalreasoning. Univocal here describes thinking that is exactly the same as God's thinking, a clear impossibility.
— Ibid., p. 178 footnote 6
u-niv-o-cal (adj): Having only one meaning, unambiguous [Dictionary.com]
The issue of analogy and univocity has plagued the Clark-Van Til controversy since it occurred. What does Van Til means by analogy, and how should we think of the concept?
The quotes above from Van Til's book I think sufficiently aids us in understanding what Van Til meant by analogy. In Van Til's system, there is a huge emphasis on the Creator-creature distinction. That is of course well and good, but it is what one does with this that need to be evaluated.
The Creator-creature distinction in Van Til's thought means that one should not reason like Man in order to reach God. In order to know anything at all, Van Til asserts that one should reason from a Christian perspective.
Van Til accordingly defines his terms as follows: "Univocal" reasoning is to him thinking in the exact same manner as how God thinks. "Equivocal" thinking is to not-reason. "Analogical" thinking Van Til defines as thinking derivative thoughts re-interpreting what God has interpreted.
The funny thing here is that as a Clarkian, I absolutely agree that Christians are to think "derivative thoughts re-interpreting what God has interpreted," and Clark does too. According to Van Til's definition, most Clarkians would reason analogically.
The problem comes however with definitions. Clark and Clarkians in general use plain English as much as possible. As a sample definition in dictionary.com shows, the term "univocal" means "having only one meaning, unambiguous." It has to do therefore with the intended meanings of words and sentences. Therefore, using plain speech, the term "univocal" cannot refer to the manner of reasoning, but the content of propositions (not the form because the same sentence can mean two or more different propositions depending on factors including the socio-cultural environment)
Van Till's distinct philosophy and his definition of "univocal" is therefore contrary to the actual meaning of the word in English. This is especially when the adjective "univocal" is modifying the noun "knowledge." The term "univocal knowledge" means that the content is the same. In other words, instead of "univocal knowledge," we can substitute it for the phrase "literal" or "unambiguous knowledge."
As an adverb ("univocally"), the word could be used in the way Van Til uses it. However, this then is the difference between "univocally knowing X" and "knowledge of X is univocal." The former expression has the adverb "univocally" modifying the manner of "knowing" X, and therefore could convey the meaning that Van Til desires it to have. The latter however describes the content of X that we are knowing, viz that there is an overlap of sorts between the content of what God and what Man knows.
In this way, the univocity of knowledge ensure revelation is possible. It means that if God intends for us to know that "Justification is by Faith Alone," the truth would be conveyed to us and we would receive it. No doubt it may be the case that God's revelation is much more richer than what we have discovered so far with regards to this vital doctrine, but the key issue is that we have at least perceived part of what God intends to convey.
Van Til therefore creates de novo his own definitions of English words , and then uses his newly-fangled words to define what orthodoxy is. But such a tactic is entirely illegitimate, and as such we should reject the entire "univocal" and "analogy" terms altogether when describing the manner of our knowing anything. It is no thanks to Van Til therefore that we have confusion and the misrepresentation of Gordon Clark. After all, since when did a theologian get to judge the orthodoxy of another person based upon whether they agree with the form of his phrases made up of redefined words? Therefore, we should reject this redefinition of words, and use proper English.