20 August, 2016

FAQ - Rationalism, Paradoxes, Mysteries, Apparent Contradictions, Cornelius Van Til, Harmonizing Scripture etc.




Q. 1. “What is Rationalism?”

“[Rationalism is] an exaltation of man’s sinful reason to a position where it becomes the sole criterion of truth, and partly because it is, by its very nature, anti-biblical. A man cannot be faithful to the Scriptures and be a rationalist at the same time. He is one or the other. In fact, rationalism is unbelief; faithfulness to the Scriptures is saving faith.” (Herman Hanko, “For Thy Truth’s Sake”)

“Rationalism wants to exalt reason above the Scriptures.” (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 58)

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Q. 2. “Isn’t the attempt to harmonize Scripture with itself or the attempt to solve seemingly paradoxical problems in the Bible ‘rationalism’?”

If the attempt to find, by a deeper study of the Scripture, the solution of paradoxes is deemed "rationalism" (i.e. heretical) then it certainly follows that all theology, and especially all dogmatics, is rationalistic... For theology and dogmatics proceed from the assumption that the truth revealed in the Bible can be formulated into a logical system.
No theologian has ever proceeded from the assumption that we must not try to harmonize Scripture or try to solve problems. Dogmatics is a system of truth elicited from Scripture. And exegesis always applies the rule of the "regula Scripturae" (Analogy of Scripture) which means that throughout the Bible there runs a consistent line of thought in the light of which the darker and more difficult passages must be interpreted.
Who does not know that Reformed theologians have always interpreted those passages of Scriptures, which at first sight seem to be in favor of the Arminian view, in the light of the current teaching of Holy Writ that salvation is of the Lord, that grace is sovereign, that the atonement is particular, and that man is not free to do good? (Rev. Herman Hoeksema)

[Rationalism is the rejection of] divinely inspired teaching on the basis that it is inconsistent with what unaided human reason already knows. If the rejection of Prof. Murray’s formulation of the gospel offer proceeds on the basis that it contradicts what Scripture explicitly teaches, that rejection is free from the charge of rationalism and must be accepted as Biblical truth … [The] rejection of Prof. Murray’s formulation proceeds, not on the basis that it contradicts the light of nature, but that it contradicts the light of Scripture. (Matthew Winzer, “Murray on the Free Offer: A Review”)

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Q. 3. “Is not your whole rejection of ‘common grace’ based on inferences drawn from the eternal decree and eternal predestinating counsel of God? Are you simply denying ‘common grace’ and the ‘well-meant offer’ merely because it ‘contradicts’ the decree of reprobation?”

No. God’s revealed truth of predestination is not the only doctrine that militates against common grace. Against God’s unity (Deut. 6:4), common grace teaches that God has two loves, two mercies, two lovingkindnesses, etc. Against God’s immutability (Mal. 3:6), common grace teaches that God loves the reprobate in time and then hates them in eternity. Against the divine righteousness, which is so great that God cannot “look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13), common grace says that God loves those who are completely evil (Rom. 3:10-18). In short, common grace postulates a temporary, limited, changeable, unrighteous love of God (outside of Jesus Christ!) for the reprobate. But the Scriptures teach us that God loves Himself, and that He loves His elect church (Eph. 5:25) with a particular (Rom. 9:18), eternal (Jer. 31:3), infinite (Eph. 3:17-19), unchangeable (Ps. 136) love in Jesus Christ. (Rev. Angus Stewart, “Common Grace”)

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Q. 4. “Are you simply trying to comprehend things within your fallen human brain, putting reason on the foreground?”

We are not engaged in trying to harmonise one thing with another before our rational understanding. We are simply discussing the ordinary meaning of the words which are used by those who speak of a [common grace, and a] general offer of grace. When we use words, then those words have meaning. We cannot simply inject into them a meaning as it pleases us or as it may best suit us.” (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” p. 2)

[The] rejection of Prof. Murray’s formulation proceeds, not on the basis that it contradicts the light of nature, but that it contradicts the light of Scripture. Moreover, the Scriptural references which Prof. Murray has alleged in favour of his formulation, do not teach what he has endeavoured so earnestly to extract from them. (Matthew Winzer, “Murray on the Free Offer: A Review”)

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Q. 5. “In our study of Scripture, are there not apparent contradictions in the Bible, and that in such cases we simply accept both sides of the contradiction?”

The Bible is the revelation of God to us, adapted to our understanding. God, who created our logical mind, also adapted His own revelation to that mind. Hence, there surely cannot be contradictions in the Word of God. There are no contradictions in God. How could there be contradictions in His revelation to us? (Rev. Herman Hoeksema)

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Q. 6. “Are there not statements in Scripture that at first blush appear to contradict each other?”

Granted. But it has always been sound Reformed method of exegesis to make a serious attempt to solve the difficulties by explaining those passages that appear to contradict the current teaching of the Bible, the analogia Scripturae, in the light of the latter. Van Til, himself, even emphasized that this method must be applied in such cases. Only, for some reason, he quite arbitrarily [wanted] to stop at a certain point. And his objection to [our] method can only be that [we] insist that this method must be applied throughout, to the very end.
And when [we] apply this thoroughly Reformed method to the interpretation of Holy Writ, [we] come to the conclusion that the theory of common grace is a myth, an invention of man’s mind, not a truth of revelation.
But suppose now that after all our efforts there should still be apparent contradictions in the Bible. What then? Must we then not accept both sides of the contradiction? I have already shown that this is impossible. No, but in that case:
(a) We adhere to the current teaching of Scripture, and
(b) We humbly confess that as yet we have not sufficient light to solve all the difficulties, and continue our search. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema)

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Q. 7. “Are there not mysteries in Scripture?”

“We have indeed the calling to contemplate and study the Word of our God until we understand it. And although we gladly concede that there are mysteries, things which for our finite understanding are never to be fathomed, because our God is unfathomable, yet we maintain that in Scripture we have a revelation of God which is adapted to our thinking and our understanding, and which we indeed can understand. We maintain that this Scripture does not teach and cannot teach that black is also white, that God will not bestow but also will bestow grace on the same persons, that He offers what He does not will to bestow. Scripture is not both Reformed and Arminian. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “Believers and Their Seed: Children in the Covenant,” [RFPA, 1997], p. 130)

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Q. 8. “Are you not reasoning too much out of the hidden counsel of God? Wouldn't it be better if you would consider that the revealed things are for us?”

[We] do not in any way occupy [ourselves] with hidden things. Certainly, [we] do busy [ourselves] very much with sovereign election. But [we] do that according to the example of the Scriptures, which speak throughout of this election and reprobation. Surely [you] would not want to call the truth of election and reprobation a hidden thing? Well then, neither must [it be said] that [we] occupy [ourselves] with hidden things. To a certain degree it is for us a hidden matter as to *who* are elect and *who* are reprobate. But that is exactly a matter with which [we] never busy [ourselves]. From [our] standpoint that is not at all necessary. [We] preach the gospel to [our] entire audience, according to the Word of God, and as long as [we] do that, (preaching it according to the Word of God), [we] do not come in conflict with the doctrine of election and reprobation.

That a Reformed person can preach a particular gospel in general is perfectly clear to [us]. There is no mystery or contradiction involved in that. The mystery arises when someone wants to bring a general gospel (according to its content) in harmony with the truth of election. That is impossible. But [we] never occupy [ourselves] with hidden things. [We] do not visit fortune tellers, and [we] certainly do not take note of the barking of dogs or the cry of birds. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, "A Power of God Unto Salvation," p. 62)

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Q. 9. “Is not the relationship between the general offer of the gospel and the doctrine of election and reprobation a ‘mystery’? Something ‘incomprehensible’ to our finite mind, and therefore cannot be understood or harmonised?”

[There] is no mystery whatever in the teaching that God causes His gospel to be preached to all without distinction in order to save the elect and to harden the others. The calling through the gospel makes the reprobate wicked responsible, places the depravity of his sinful heart in the clearest light and increases his judgment. That is God’s intent. The result answers completely to God’s intent. And God carries out His counsel. He still maintains man’s responsibility and the justice of God. What is so very incomprehensible here? This is the clear teaching of the Scriptures . . . . 


No, the incomprehensible, the nonsense of the presentation is created when you try to bind the Arminian teaching of a general offer to the Reformed teaching of particular grace. Then you say: God desires to save only the elect; Christ brought atonement only for them; God can give His grace and work conversion only in them; but yet God offers His grace well-meaningly, with the intent of saving them, to all mankind; and if this grace is not accepted the result does not answer to the intent!

This is not a mystery. It is nonsense. It is so nonsensical, because the latter is not true, while the former is true; the latter is not in harmony with Scripture, the former is: the latter is not Reformed, the former is thoroughly Reformed. You want to join the lie to the truth. Therefore you end up with a so-called mystery. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 76-77)

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Q. 10. “How do you respond to Murray and Stonehouse’s argument that there is no contradiction between a desire to save only the elect and a desire to save all men because, after all, the one pertains to His decretive will and the other pertains to His revealed will, and it would only be a contradiction if we would attribute these two desires to the same will (either decretive or revealed)?”

In the introduction to [their pamphlet entitled The Free Offer of the Gospel, Murray and Stonehouse write the following]:

It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.

It should have been apparent that the aforesaid committee, in predicating such ‘desire’ of God, was not dealing with the decretive will of God; it was dealing with the free offer of the gospel to all without distinction and that surely respects, not the decretive will of God, but the revealed will. There is not ground for the supposition that the expression was intended to refer to God’s decretive will.

It must be admitted that if the expression were intended to apply to the decretive will of God, then there would be, at least, implicit contradiction. For to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate and apply the former to the same thing as the latter, namely, the decretive will, would be contradiction; it would amount to averring of the same thing, viewed from the same aspect, God wills and God does not will.

Again, the expression, ‘God desires,’ in the formula that crystallises the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the ‘seeming’ attitude of God, but a real attitude, a real disposition of loving-kindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given.

Let us restate, in other words, the real matter in dispute. It is, whether in the Reformed doctrine of redemption, the desire and pleasure of God concerns only the salvation of the elect whom He has chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world, or, whether it also refers to the non­elect whom God has made the objects of His everlasting displeasure and wrath.

There are three important facts to notice from the above quotations.

Firstly, the Professors have posited in God a sensible and reasonable will concerning His precepts for the salvation of all men. If any should object that the Professors have not used the words, ‘sensible and reasonable,’ then that which they have written is meaningless. Furthermore, if there is a sensible and reasonable desire in God which respects His preceptive [i.e. ‘revealed’] will that all men shall be saved, such desire is internal to the mind of God. It would be contrary to Scripture and to reason to suppose that there is a desire in God which is without sensibility and reason, and which does not belong to His internal mind. The Professors have put the matter beyond doubt in the following quotation from their study:

The expression ‘God desires’ in the formula that crystallises the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all the ‘seeming’ attitude of God but a real attitude, a real disposition of loving-kindness inherent in the free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture proffered and the invitation given.

Secondly, if there is a sensible and reasonable desire in God for the salvation of all men, and that desire is internal to His mind, then unless there are two minds in God, that desire must belong to the same mind which executes His eternal decrees.

Thirdly, the Professors have attempted to avoid the obvious contradiction which must exist if the desire of God for the salvation of all men has reference to God’s decretive will, by referring that desire to His preceptive [or ‘revealed’] will. In other words, the Professors believe that by confining the desire of God for the salvation of all men to His preceptive will, it does not involve a contradiction with God’s decretive will by which He purposes to save only some. Now as we have clearly pointed out, a desire in God for the salvation of all men must belong to the same mind which executes His decrees. The Professors, therefore, have failed to avoid the internal contradiction in God. Rather, they have by positing a desire in God’s preceptive will, created it.

If a duplicity is implied, it matters not, in this case, if it is held that there are two minds in God or only one. If it is proposed that God desires the salvation of all men, and at the same time purposes to save only some, there must be a contradiction in the Divine Mind.

The Professors have not comprehended within their theology the fact that a desire in God, whether it be made to belong to His decretive will or His preceptive [revealed] will, is a state or act of the Divine Mind. If it is held that the Divine Mind is rational, then all the desires of God must be consistent with His purposes and decrees. The non-fulfilment of desire in God implies that there is an internal contradiction or want [lack] of blessedness in the ever blessed God. The Scripture teaches that God will fulfil all His good pleasure. God in the human sense does not desire or want of anything, but decrees all things according to the pleasure of His own will.

The obscurity and confusion of the modern modified Calvinist system, in the understanding of many, stems from the fact that the idea persists that the desire of God, which He is said to have for the salvation of all men is external to Himself, because it is posited in His preceptive [revealed] will. The basic error, in this respect, is simply the positing in the mind of God a desire concerning His precepts [i.e. that God’s commands are His desire]. God’s preceptive will [i.e. His commands] which is given for man’s rule of duty, is in no way declarative of what God desires or what He intends to do. To say that God desires the salvation of those whom He does not purpose to save, by granting them the gifts of repentance and faith, is to make God insincere and a monster in the worst sense. The free offer of Christ in the gospel, which God’s ministers are commanded to preach unto all men, is not a declaration of whom He desires to save, any more than it is one concerning the particular individuals whom He purposes to redeem.

(Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, “Universalism and the Reformed Churches: A Defense of Calvin’s Calvinism”)

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Q. 11.Why can’t saving faith accept mutually exclusive propositions that are contrary to all logic? Does not the word of God demands us to accept such?”

We maintain that this is impossible even for saving faith and that Scripture never makes such a demand on faith. The truth may far transcend our comprehension, but it never conflicts with the fundamental laws of logic. If it did, it could not be apprehended. A truth that is contrary to our understanding would elude our grasp. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “God’s Goodness Always Particular” [RFPA 2015], p. 23)

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Q. 12.What is the ‘archetypal/ectypal distinction in Reformed theology?

The word archetype means “pattern in an ultimate sense.” Simply put, archetypal knowledge is theology as God knows it. The term refers to God’s infinite, perfect self-knowledge. It is knowledge that the triune God has of Himself apart from any creature. This knowledge of God is the ultimate pattern of all knowledge. The word ectype means “copy or reflection of the archetype or ultimate pattern.”21 Ectypal knowledge is theology as we know and do it. It is the knowledge that we humans have of God. More specifically, ectypal knowledge is the knowledge that the believer and the church have of God by means of revelation. (Joshua Engelsma, PRTJ, vol. 45, no. 2 [April, 2012].)

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Q. 13. “How is archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge distinguished? Is there is a difference?”

[There] is a difference between how God knows [archetypal knowledge] and how we know [ectypal knowledge]. Archetypal knowledge is intuitive; ectypal knowledge is derived. This understanding also acknowledges that there is a difference in quantity between archetypal and ectypal knowledge. Archetypal knowledge is infinite and boundless; ectypal knowledge is finite and limited. (Joshua Engelsma, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April, 2012].)

For our part, we believe that the distinction ought to be made between the quantity of our knowledge and God’s knowledge and the way in which we know and God knows. The quantity of God’s knowledge is infinite while ours is finite. God knows intuitively while our knowledge is derived. But the quality of the knowledge we have by revelation is not different from God’s knowledge. What we know from God’s Word is true and is not in any way contradictory. (Joshua Engelsma, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April, 2012], pp. 93-94.)

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Q. 14. “Does not the archetype/ectype distinction teach that there is a complete break between the content of God’s knowledge and knowledge possible to man?”

This is not the proper understanding of this distinction. The proper understanding of this distinction can be summed up rather briefly: quantitative difference. The knowledge that God has is distinguished from the knowledge that we have as regards quantity. God is infinite, and so is His knowledge of Himself and all things. Our knowledge, by comparison, is finite. God’s knowledge is intuitive. Ours is acquired. There is now and forever shall be in heaven an infinite gulf between the quantity of our knowledge and God’s.

But we must not assume that there is a qualitative difference be­tween God’s knowledge and the knowledge that we have of things. The knowledge that we have is received by revelation. God revealed Himself to us in His Word. That Word is the source of all the believer’s knowledge. And that Word is infallible, sufficient, and reliable. God reveals to us in His Word who He really is and what He has sover­eignly decreed. We may not know everything there is to know about God, but the knowledge God has given to us in Scripture is identical to the knowledge that God Himself has. If this is not our confession, then we have absolutely no assurance that what we know is the truth. We may think something is true, we may hope that it is true, but we have no certainty that it is actually true. We cannot know whether our knowledge of something is the same as God’s knowledge. (Joshua Engelsma, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April, 2012].)

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Q. 15. “So you’re saying that though our knowledge is ‘quantitatively’ different from God’s, yet it is ‘qualitatively’ the same as His? Does not Deuteronomy 29:29 contradict that?

The fact that our knowledge is qualitatively the same as God’s is in harmony with Deuteronomy 29:29, the chief passage on which the archetypal/ectypal distinction is based. There we read, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” This passage is not saying that the ectype is different from the archetype. Rather, Moses is telling the people not to pry into the things that God has not revealed but to observe all that God has revealed in His law. Applied to the call of the gospel, this verse tells us that we are not to pry into the hearts of men to see whether they are elect or not, but we are to confine ourselves to what God has revealed, namely, that all who repent and believe will be saved. And Scripture is clear that only the elect truly repent and believe. There is no antimony or apparent contradiction taught in this passage. (Joshua Engelsma, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April, 2012], p. 80.)

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Q. 16. “Is not our knowledge of something only ‘analogical’ to Gods? Is not our knowledge only ‘analogically’ true?”

The claim that our knowledge is only analogical to God’s is erroneous. The analogical idea essentially means that the believer can have no truth at all. The best that we can hope for is an analogy to the truth, but the truth will forever escape us. In this case the truth is that God desires the salvation only of the elect. But all we can know is that God desires the salvation of all men who come under the preaching of the gospel. The truth is not something we can know and ought not be something we are concerned with. Gordon Clark writes, “If God knows all truths and knows the correct meaning of every proposition, and if no proposition means to man what it means to God, so that God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge do not coincide at any single point, it follows by rigorous necessity that man can have no truth at all.”43

We confess that the truth must be the same for us as it is for God. We do not know everything that God knows, nor do we know in the same way that God knows, but what we do know to be true is the same as God knows it. That is to say, the quantity of our knowledge and the way in which we know is different. It must be, for God is the infinite God and we are but finite creatures. But the quality of the knowledge that we do have is identical with that which God has. What we know about a certain proposition is identical to what God knows about that same proposition. Revelation requires that this be true. God’s revelation to us is a revelation that is reliable and accurate. He reveals Himself to us as He actually is. He reveals in His Word to us the truth about the way He works. Faith requires that this be true as well.

­­­[Robert L. Reymond writes,] “Accordingly, since the Scriptures require that saving faith be grounded in true knowledge (see Rom. 10:13-14), the church must vigorously oppose any linguistic or revelational theory, however well-intended, that would take from men and women the only ground of their knowledge of God and, accordingly, their only hope of salvation.”44

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FOOTNOTES:

43 Quoted in Reymond, New Systematic Theology, 99.
44 Reymond, New Systematic Theology, 102.

(Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April 2012], p. 86)

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[Claiming that our knowledge is only ‘analogically’ true] leaves the door open for contradictions and paradoxes in our knowledge. What we know is essentially different from the way things actually are. We are convinced that this undermines the very existence of systematic theology. We are also convinced that this is perilous for the faith and salvation of the child of God. If we are unsure of the truthfulness of our knowledge, our faith and salvation are unsure. (Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 [April 2012], p. 94)

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Q. 17. “Scripture portrays God as having a nose, eyes, ears, passions, and even portrays God as repenting. Does this not imply that the reflection we see in the Bible is distorted? The image we have of God in the Bible is not who God is as He is. It is who God is as He has revealed Himself to our weak finite capacity.
The problem isn't the mirror. The problem is us. The mirror is accommodated to us and our problems which include sinfulness, creatureliness, and finiteness. God is reflected and revealed in the Scriptures but that revelation is not who God is in His essence since He is essentially unknowable.”

Your question concerns what theology calls “anthropomorphism.”  God reveals Himself to us in Scripture in language and forms reflecting human characteristics.  As spirit, God has no body or bodily parts; but He states that He has eyes, a hand, etc. As modes of revelation, therefore, they are not to be taken literally, but make known that to God belong the realities that these body parts perform in human life: seeing; acting, etc.

That these characteristics of God are figurative does not, however, imply that they are unreal.  God’s are the realities, of which the human parts and activities are the figures. God made man with the bodily parts and activities to manifest the realities in Himself. God’s are the real eyes, hand, etc. The realities are the divine, spiritual seeing, acting, etc.

To view the matter from another angle, although the ascription of bodily parts to God is not to be taken literally, physically, but as revelation to humans concerning who and what God is, the revelation is true, although God far exceeds the revelation. Revelation can be true, although not complete. God far exceeds the revelation of Himself in Scripture, but He is not different from the revelation. There may be a faint shadowing of this in our own lives with each other. You, or even my wife, knows me truly, if I am an unhypocritical man; but neither of you knows me fully, not even as fully as I know myself.
   
I would contend that the revelation of God is essentially who God truly is. He is not different from His revelation of Himself. But He is more than the revelation.
   
When we see God face to face in Jesus, we will not exclaim, “How different thou art from your revelation in Scripture.” But we will say, “I know you. I always knew you. I knew you truly. You are exactly the one whom I knew in my life on earth. But greater and more glorious.”
   
Revelation is true, not false.
   
And by it, we do know God. By His own gracious act of revelation, He is essentially knowable.
   
Hear Bavinck:
“... In order to convey the knowledge of him to his creatures, God accommodates himself to their powers of comprehension. Our knowledge of God is always only analogical in character and, therefore, only a finite image, a faint likeness and creaturely impression of the perfect knowledge that God has of himself. Finally, our knowledge of God is nevertheless true, pure, and trustworthy because it is founded in God’s own self-consciousness, its archetype, and his self-revelation in the cosmos.”

Read all that Bavinck has to say on the subject in the first part of his Reformed Dogmatics. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

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Q. 18. “Herman Bavinck makes an interesting point when he says that our knowledge of God is ‘always only analogical in character and, therefore, only a finite image, a faint likeness and creaturely impression of the perfect knowledge that God has of himself.’ I recall that Cornelius Van Til also discussed extensively in his writings the concept of ‘analogical’ knowledge. Is Bavinck there teaching the same concept as Van Til? Or is there a different understanding of ‘analogical’ knowledge between these two men?”

With regard to your question about analogical knowledge in Bavinck, a careful, full reading of Bavinck on the subject will make plain that he had something different in mind from Van Til.  Bavinck insisted that our knowledge of God by revelation is true, that we know God truly from His revelation.  Bavinck was concerned to point out that God reveals Himself to us in language and by figures that draw upon comparisons with the makeup of humans.  Van Til, although he may have supposed that he was grounded in Bavinck's theology, meant by analogy that there is no oneness of divine revelation and of human's knowledge.  This denies the truth and reality of our knowledge of God.  Our knowledge is always mere similarity.

For Bavinck, as I read him, our knowledge of God by divine revelation is true knowledge, making known to us what and who God really is.  God's making Himself known is (genuine) revelation of Himself.    

This is reality by means of revelation that uses anthropomorphisms, likenesses of God and His actions to human features and actions.

The fundamental expression of this genuine revelation, though taking form in anthropomorphism, is Jesus.  He is genuine revelation of God, not only in spite of His humanity, but exactly by means of His humanity. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

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Q. 19. “What did Cornelius Van Til mean by ‘analogical knowledge’?”

Van Til developed his concept of “analogical knowledge,” meaning that all human knowledge can only ever be a representation of God’s knowledge. In this view, there is no defined point of contact between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge; there is never an identity between God’s knowledge of Himself and our knowledge of Him. Hence, propositions cannot have the same meaning for God as they do for man, with the result that propositional knowledge of God ultimately becomes impossible. (Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 20. “We may not and cannot apply the laws of logic to the Being of God.”

[This] position is self-contradictory: [one] has to use logic in order to disparage logic. [The modern notion] is that God’s attributes cannot be reduced to the level of human logic ... Yet it is only on the basis of logic that [someone] can say [we are] wrong. Obviously, we cannot both be right at the same time; that would be a denial of the law of non-contradiction. [This ideology allows a person] to deny logic only when it suits him. (Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 21. “The truth about God always eludes our logical categories and it is the part of a true Christian humility to let the doctrine of a love of God for all men stand in tension with the truth of sovereign reprobation.”

This position represents a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. According to [free offer men], [both double predestination and the well-meant offer] are taught in Scripture. But since Scripture is the revealed will of God, if it contains contradictions, then it is unclear, and if unclear, it cannot be sufficient. (Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 22. “Surely we have no right to say that God cannot both love and hate a man at one and the same time. After all, God’s mind is infinite, and therefore He is perfectly capable of loving and hating the same person. Such a concept is simply one of the many mysteries we must humbly accept.”

That is simply a contradiction. Such a view is a denial of the attribute of God’s simplicity. The doctrine of God’s simplicity means that God is one and undivided in His Being. Although we speak of and distinguish individual attributes of God, it is nevertheless true that his attributes are all one in Him. Hence, God’s simplicity means God always acts consistently with His nature; God is always in harmony with Himself; there is no tension in the Being of God. The very thought is utter blasphemy. He is the one, perfectly blessed, incomparable God, unto whom be glory forever. Even in human relationships do we not regard consistency as a virtue? That we do is a reflection of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah, who as the I AM THAT I AM simply is. Jehovah God is never anything other than what He is. Hence, to will opposite things … is impossible for God, as Job declares, “He is in one mind, and who can turn him?” (Job 23:13). God’s will is God and so His will is one and undivided; you obviously cannot say this about one who wills both A and not A at the same time: God is not the great schizophrenic! (Philip Rainey, “Calvinism Cast Out: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Free Offer of the Gospel”)

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Q. 23. “A ‘paradox’ (or antinomy) is two truths which are both unmistakably taught in the Word of God but which also cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason.”

[From the definition of paradox proposed thus, it immediately shows itself to be] inherently problematical, for the one who so defines the term is suggesting by implication that either he knows by means of an omniscience that is not normally in human possession that no one is capable of reconciling the truths in question or he has somehow universally polled everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will live in the future and has discovered that not one has been able, is able, or will be able to reconcile the truths. But it goes without saying that neither of these conditions is or can be true. Therefore, the very assertion that there are paradoxes, so defined, in Scripture is seriously flawed by the terms of the definition itself. There is no way to know if such a phenomenon is present in Scripture. Merely because any number of scholars have failed to reconcile to their satisfaction two given truths of Scripture is no proof that the truths cannot be harmonized. And if just one scholar claims to have reconciled the truths to his or her own satisfaction, this ipso facto renders the definition both gratuitous and suspect. (Dr. Robert L. Reymond, “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” [Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; USA], p. 105).

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Q. 24. “But paradoxes are only apparent contradictions and not actual or real ones!”

[This attempted solution to the problem] seem to be oblivious to the fact that, if actually non-contradictory truths can appear as contradictories and if no amount of study or reflection can remove the contradiction, there is no available means to distinguish between this “apparent” contradiction and a real contradiction. Since both would appear to the human existent in precisely the same form and since neither will yield up its contradiction to study and reflection, how does the human existent know for certain that he is “embracing with passion” only a seeming contradiction and not a real contradiction? (Dr. Robert L. Reymond, “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” [Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; USA], p. 105-7).

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Q. 25. “But even so-and-so (e.g. Berkhof, Murray, Van Til, Spurgeon, etc.) himself has stated that not even he can reconcile these apparently contradictory truths … and he is an eminent theologian. Is that fact itself not enough to prove that not even we are able to solve this, and neither is anyone else for that matter?”

Merely because any number of scholars have failed to reconcile to their satisfaction two given truths of Scripture is no proof that the truths cannot be harmonized. And if just one scholar claims to have reconciled the truths to his or her own satisfaction, this ipso facto renders the definition both gratuitous and suspect (Dr. Robert L. Reymond, “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” [Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; USA], p. 105).

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Q. 26. “Are you trying to make the gospel consistent?”

[This] begs the question: “Is the pure gospel inconsistent then?” (“British Reformed Journal,” issue 46 [Winter 2007], p. 26).

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Q. 27. “Is it not the height of impiety to require a non-contradictory basis for the offer or preaching of the gospel?”

We do not believe it is a sign of piety to cry “mystery!” when contradictions are evident in one’s theology, especially when the contradiction is of one’s own making. (Rev. Christopher J. Connors, “The Biblical Offer of the Gospel”)




                                                                                                                  

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