Monday, January 21, 2013

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Part 1)

What is the nature of truth? Truth if it is by God must of necessity be absolute and eternal. In my personal experiences, there seems to be a view of the nature of truth in certain segments of the New Evangelical Calvinism, especially in circles associated with Tim Keller, that has more in line with post-Wittgensteinian modernity/ post-modernity than biblical Christianity. Briefly, the difference seems to be that certain segments at least hold to the idea of nature (ontology) of truth as being anthropocentric (man-centered) although they do hold to a theocentric (God-centered) teleology of truth. In line with that is the denial or at least neglect of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction in theology. Secondly, truth becomes seen in a pragmatic and utilitarian manner. Thirdly, truth seems to be seen as primarily intellectual not spiritual. Fourthly, there is a denial that truth can sometimes be intended by God to kill and to judge not to bring life. Fifthly, there is a functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying the truth. We will look at all these points in turn.

Antropocentric ontology of truth

God's truth is absolute and eternal. What this means is that God's truth has equal validity for all cultures everywhere. What God says is true, and there are no degrees of truth whatsoever. The truth is trans-cultural, trans-ethnic and trans-national.

In some parts of the New Evangelical Calvinism however, there is a post-Wittgensteinian modern/ post-modern focus on truth as being conditioned in some sense upon culture. Truth is split platonically into the substance of truth (the idea) and the form of its expression. It is then emphasized that the substance of the truth must not change, but its form and expression should. The idea of contextualization is birthed from this idea of the relation of truth and culture, something expounded by Tim Keller in his appropriation of it from liberal circles [Tim Keller, Contextualization: Wisdom or Compromise (Unpublished paper presented at Covenant Seminary, n.d.)]

As I have shown here, Keller's concept of contextualization is based upon a false view of the relation between truth and culture. Biblical truths cannot be known apart from its redemptive historical context. There is no such thing to be known as some non-inculturated Gospel. Therefore, the Gospel cannot be abstracted as some substance apart from its form. Rather, the Gospel in its entirety (form and all) must be brought in all its strangeness to bear upon every culture.

Further reflection upon this problem of contextualization has shown me that the problem lies with a fundamental denial or neglect of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction. This distinction states that there are basically two types of theology. Theology that pertains to God alone is archetypal theology (theologia archetypa) and theology that pertains to us is ectypal theology (theologia ectypa) [Willem J. van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought”, WTJ 64 (2002): 319-35]. Ectypal theology is a reflection of archetypal theology, but they are not the same. God alone knows archetypal theology, while ectypal theology is communicated to us from God, thus functioning as the univocal point of contact between God and Man. As it pertains to the debate over contextualization, the supposed "kernel" of the Gospel that Keller believes can be abstracted from its cultural context and then contextualized into another culture can be said to be archetypal theology. The problem becomes clear since archetypal theology is not something anybody but God alone knows. We only know archetypal theology in its reflection in ectypal theology. The entire practice of contextualization thus is a practical denial of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction, which is a step towards the denial of the Creator/ creature distinction.

Back to the nature of truth, if truth that we can know is archetypal, but truth in expression is culturally-conditioned, truth is its totality in its nature must be anthropocentric, since in its totality it is dependent upon culture. Reformed theology has two types of truth, and thus we can say that ectypal truth is culturally conditioned, yet because it is a reflection of archetypal theology which is not culturally conditioned, truth transcends culture altogether. The denial of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction makes truth therefore anthropocentic in its nature. Now, saying it is anthopocentric in nature does not mean that it is necessarily anthropocentric in its authority, focus and goal. Rather, truth can be seen as theocentric in its authority, focus and its goal as it strives to be in New Evangelical Calvinist circles. So truth is from God as its source, but in its conduit is from Man who expresses it. The anthropocentricity therefore comes out in discussion of truth in its conveyance, whereby truth is discussed very much in terms of its expression by the proponent, and in terms of reception and perception by the receiver of said truth, something which underlie all the other points of critique which we will be looking at.

[to be continued]


Charlie J. Ray said...

I disagree. The cause of Tim Keller's departure is not a lack of the archetypal/ectypal distinction. In fact, the cause is Van Til's theology of paradox and inherent contradiction. Unless there is a univocal, trustworthy revelation of God's will in the plenarily inspired Scriptures there is no basis of truth. The fact that both Mike Horton and R. Scott Clark are pushing for gay marriage in the secular kingdom under the disguise of the two kingdoms theology is proof enough that following Van Til's theology leads not only to irrationalism but also to schizophrenia.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 NKJ)

From all appearances and judging from Horton's systematic theology recently published, Westminster California is headed for a repeat performance of the fate of Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller was once a bastion of classical Reformed and Evangelical faith. It is now a liberal seminary and completely apostate.


Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

Charlie J. Ray said...

>>>God alone knows archetypal theology, while ectypal theology is communicated to us from God, thus functioning as the univocal point of contact between God and Man.<<< You realize, of course, that you used the word "univocal" here? Your Van Tilian professors will be upset that you didn't say "analogical" instead.

Charlie J. Ray said...

>>>Reformed theology has two types of truth, and thus we can say that ectypal truth is culturally conditioned, yet because it is a reflection of archetypal theology which is not culturally conditioned, truth transcends culture altogether.<<<

Well, if at no single point can we know anything that God says via ectypal revelation and there is absolutely no point of contact between what God knows archetypally and what He reveals to us ectypally then it logically follows that there is no revelation from God whatsoever.

Thus, I have to ask, "Why are you complaining about Keller if you don't know God's revelation is the univocal words and thoughts of God?"

Even R. Scott Clark has acknowledged that Keller follows John Frame's triperspectivalism, another product of Van Til's irrational theology.

PuritanReformed said...


where exactly have Drs. Horton and RSC ever pushed for gay marriage? I'm sure if you make such serious accusations, the sessions of their respective churches want to know. If those assertions are not true, please apologize for them

PuritanReformed said...


I have never claimed to be a Van Tillian, so I couldn't care less about the usage of words. And it is evident that you don't understand Vantillianism, neither do you understand the archetypal/ ectypal distinction. Stop trying to read everything using Clarkian categories and try to see what exactly they are saying, before you critique it!

PuritanReformed said...


Dr. Clark has said that he has opposed gay marriage. You should repent of your slander against him.

Just because you oppose 2K does not mean you can misrepresent 2K proponents. Clark and Horton are not Lee Irons. Also, it is one thing to say that 2K teaches gay marriage, and another thing to say that 2K logically should lead to gay marriage. The former is wrong, the second you have to argue for if you so desire.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Of course Dr. Clark and Dr. Horton oppose gay marriage in the church. But do they oppose it in the "secular kingdom"? THAT is the question, isn't it? Being ambiguous in your answers is revealing.

Also, the archetypal/ectypal distinction does not violate the principle that logic and Scripture are self-evident axioms. If Scripture is not at any point God's Word, then your position is neo-orthodox, not Reformed. The Reformed view is that Scripture IS the Word of God and that all doctrine is logically deduced from it. WCF ch. 1. If, otoh, Scripture at no single point coincides with God's logical propositions and thoughts, then it logically follows that we can know nothing at all. All that is left is skepticism. Hence, I have labelled Dr. R. S. Clark's theology as a quest for illegitimate religious uncertainty or QIRU.

Also, since you do not claim Van Til's views but consistently agree with those same views, your disavowal is hardly credible.


Charlie J. Ray said...

As to where Horton pushes for gay mariage in the secular kingdom, here it is: Same-Sex Marriage Makes a Lot of Sense

Charlie J. Ray said...

There is only one way to refute same sex marriage in the civic realm and in the church realm: Scripture IS God's word revealed in propositional truth claims.

Horton's masquerade is revealing in that he never answers his own questions because he has no answer. Why? Because he doesn't really believe that Scripture is God's Word. It's only an analogy, a framework--not literally and univocally God's thoughts and words on the matter.

PuritanReformed said...


this will be my last reply to you.

>But do they oppose it in the "secular kingdom"? THAT is the question, isn't it?

Since when do Christians get to rule in the secular kingdom? Are you a theonomist?

>Being ambiguous in your answers is revealing.

It is revealing of your arrogance and ignorance when you think that anyone who is not a Constantinian must necessarily oppose moral wickedness X (e.g. homosexuality) in the way you do.

>If Scripture is not at any point God's Word, then your position is neo-orthodox, not Reformed.

I have NEVER said that Scripture is "not at any point God's Word." Stop trying to read everything as if anyone who does not use your terminology must necessarily be denying univocity of revelation!

>Hence, I have labelled Dr. R. S. Clark's theology as a quest for illegitimate religious uncertainty or QIRU.

You have no idea what you are talking about. You can't even adequately represent Van Til, or RSC's position. I do not agree with RSC on everything, but you have not even began to adequately represent his position.

>Also, since you do not claim Van Til's views but consistently agree with those same views, your disavowal is hardly credible

LIAR! Anyone who has read my blog will know that I sharply critique Van Til. But I am not so rabid anti-Van Tillian that anyone who does not use MY terminology MY way is necessarily in error.

>As to where Horton pushes for gay mariage in the secular kingdom...

Misrepresentation! Horton is not pushing for gay marriage here. He is arguing that moral therapeutic deism has no real argument against gay marriage.


You have shown yourself to misrepresent me and to misrepresent Drs. RS Clark and Horton. You have slandered their names, and persistently insist that you are right.

I now know why Dr. RS Clark told me he banned you from commenting on the Heidelblog. This will be your last comment here on this post, unless you are ready to properly interact with facts and properly represent people.

This is your first strike. 3 strikes and no more commenting anywhere on this blog.

Charlie J. Ray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PuritanReformed said...


any further comments by you will be deleted. I have enough of your lying

Darrell Todd Maurina said...

Charlie Ray:

Maybe a word from me will work, speaking as someone who has a history of criticizing the Two Kingdoms theology in general, and more specifically, the move toward toleration of gay marriage by civil governments.

Misty Irons is in a different category from Dr. Clark. Clark has been clear about his belief that a Two Kingdoms argument can be made against civil governments allowing homosexual marriage. Read this link to a recent post citing his past posts:

People can read the link to Dr Horton's views which you posted and come to their own conclusions. I have serious concerns about Horton's comments. He's not where Misty Irons is, but I'm worried. However, whatever we want to say about Dr. Horton, Dr. Clark is clear in his views against homosexual marriage -- clear in ways I wish other Two Kingdoms people were.

When criticizing our opponents we need to be scrupulous about getting our facts right, even when (maybe especially when) we strongly disagree.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Darrell, I can only go by what I see in print. Your attempt to silence those who question what they see in print is just another false attempt at "tolerance." Tolerance, imo, is just another excuse to shame those who dare to ask questions and flush out the truth. If Dr. Clark is against gay marriage in the civic realm, more power to him. But when even you see that Horton is being ambiguous that is a strong indicator that something is suspicious.

My loyalty is not to the state or even to a denomination per se. My loyalty is to Scripture alone. That is not to say that I don't subscribe to the Anglican Formularies, the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity. I take no exceptions from any of them on theological matters--though I might disagree with presbyterian polity as opposed to a more congregational approach to both presbyterianism and episcopal polity.

I wrote an article on this very issue at my blog: Two Kingdoms and Pazganism. The two kingdoms view does not mean that God has two standards of morality. There is only one divinely given moral law and God will judge pagan nations by that law.


Darrell Todd Maurina said...

Charlie, I have a history of more than two decades fighting homosexual ordination and homosexual marriage. It was me who dug up Misty Irons speech to a "Christian homosexual" group and widely disseminated it last year. I cannot be accused of being "soft" on this issue in any way, shape or form.

Dr. Clark has made clear that he opposes homosexual marriage. I believe his rationale is insufficient and won't work. But I see no evidence that he secretly or implicitly supports something that he clearly denies supporting.

We need to get our facts right when we criticize people. That goes double for ordained ministers and elders.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Darrell, R. S. Clark opposes gay marriage in the civic realm on the basis of human reason. That basis is insuffient because reason has been corrupted by total inability and depravity of the divine image and likeness. Asking the reprobate not to pass laws in favor of abortion and homosexuality is like asking the devil not to rebel.

Furthermore, if you want to complain about "mistakes" then when will Scott Clark stop repeating the false mantra that Gordon H. Clark violated the creature/Creator distinction? He was cleared of all charges in 1944 yet Van Tilian semi-neo-orthodox promoters of irrationalism insist on their doctrine of truth as being two fold.

There is nothing in the Reformed standards that comes anywhere near advocating the doctrine of Scripture as an analogy of revealed truth but not the revealed truth itself. That's neo-orthodoxy, not biblical doctrine.

Darrell Todd Maurina said...

Ray, you will get no disagreement from me that Dr. Clark's rationale for opposing homosexual marriage in the civil realm is insufficient.

With regard to Van Til, he does teach at Westminster Seminary, and taking the Van Til side of the Van Til-Clark controversy might not be unexpected.

I work in the world of secular politics where it takes 50 percent to get most things done. That means I need to work with people who vote the right way, regardless of why they do so. If someone is opposed to homosexual marriage, I don't care if they're a Calvinist, a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Pentecostal, a Roman Catholic, or even a Mormon or a secular conservative. Why somebody opposes or supports something is less important than why they vote that way.

Unless someone can show me that Dr. Clark is secretly affirming affirming homosexual marriages while he publicly denies doing so, I'm inclined to take him at face value.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The issue here is not political per se but preaching the moral law along with the Gospel. To say that the church is forbidden to preach against the state and it's ungodly policies, including your political pragmatism, is just silly. I refer you to:

saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:28-29 NKJ)

Basically, the 2K theology is being used to squelch religious dissent against the ungodly policies of the state. That would include both political parties. Abortion is evil and any church that refuses to preach damnation against the United States on the basis of abortion and the gay agenda is to compromise with the world.

I am amused that the Pharisees of the status quo and liberalism get upset because someone dares to challenge their liberalism. After all, anyone who actually believes the Bible condemns nations today is just a "fundamentalist."

Charlie J. Ray said...

Besides, if you visit my blog you will see that I corrected my comment about R. S. Clark's position. But he has no logical consistency and his position is blatantly revisionist.