Does Van Tillianism Lead to the Federal Vision?

Posted: December 18, 2014 in General Presup Issues
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(The “Federal Vision” controversy is still raging among conservative branches of the Presbyterian church.  Many in the Federal Vision are also Van Tillians and try to rope Van Til into their camp.  Reverend Alan D. Strange has, in my view, presented the most intelligible overview of the controversy, laying out its broader cultural context as well as the important issues involved.  In lecture 1 of his critique of Federal Vision, he discusses the FV proponents’ attempt to use Van Til, suggesting they misunderstand him.

Additionally, Strange alludes to Calvin Beisner, a Clarkian who takes jabs at Van Til while opposing the Federal Vision.  I’ve taken the liberty to transcribe some relevant portions of Dr. Strange’s lecture, but the entire series is worth a listen – A.D.)

@ 1:02:00

FV advocates claim to be following Cornelius Van Til in their anti-systematizing biases.  Most, if not all of the proponents of Federal Vision would claim either to be followers of the apologetic methodology of Van Til, or would otherwise not see themselves as contradicting him.  The Federal Vision does, in fact, misrepresent Van Til at several points, and it’s a mistake to assume that Federal Vision’s misguided approach with respect to Scripture and the Confessions is properly Van Tillian.  It’s not Van Tillian simply to charge that classical federalists read the Scriptures through a theological grid (as if anyone could read the Scriptures without a theological grid).

Van Til believed that the word should make that grid and he believed that the Reformed faith had allowed the word to do just that and had faithfully reflected that in the Reformed Confessions.

@ 1:03:10

I have a footnote here that’s also taking to task Calvin Beisner because he’s a Clarkian.  And Beisner, who is an anti-FV man, looks at this and says “Ok.  I disagree with you FV friends.  You’re good friends of mine.  I disagree with you…but I understand where it comes from!  It comes from Cornelius Van Til.  That’s where it comes from, and that’s why you’re wrong!”  And the voice of Gordon Clark is heard in the land.

Well, no.  I don’t think so.  He basically takes them at their word that they’re properly representing Van Til then uses that as an opportunity to give a little smash there.  Van Til’s genius involved, not only his refusal to reject Revelation in favor of an enlightenment concept of reason, but also in a refusal to give way to irrationalism.

In his defense of the Synod of Dort, for instance, one can see that Van Til’s with the Reformers in refusing to give way either to Hyper Calvinism or to Arminianism by sticking with God’s teaching in His word.  There are those who would reduce Van Til to “mere” perspectivalism.  Notice that word.  “mere” perspectivalism.  And thus make him sound more like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Paul Ricour, Richard Rorty, and Thomas Kuhn, simply because Van Til and any number of post structuralists, deconstructionists, and a host of postmodern linguistic types all believed that we have a worldview through which we interpret all that we encounter.  There are a lot of people who believe that.

Van Til is not anti-systematic.  And the (Federal Visionists) who think they have him in their side on this, are misguided.

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    Thanks for sharing this concerning FV.


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