Book Review: Christian-theistic Evidences by Corneilus Van Til

Christian-theistic Evidences review by Mike Robinson

ImageThere’s an old saying about knowing what is true: Seeing is believing; I will not believe it unless I see it with my own eyes! There are many variations on that theme from empiricism. On a college campus, I heard a more pretentious demand: “If God exists, He should show Himself to me and do a spectacular miracle. Then I will believe!”
But in Christian Theistic Evidences, the titan of presuppositional apologetics Cornelius Van Til refutes empiricism and offers a view that not only affirms evidences, but supplies the proper epistemic framework to account for and interpret evidence and facts.

Van Til opens: “Evidence is a subdivision of apologetics … and is the vindication of Christian theism (CT). … CT must be defended against non-theistic science. It is this that we must seek to do in the course of Christian evidences” (p. i). He goes on to contend that “we believe the facts of the universe are unaccounted for except upon the basis of CT. In other words, facts and interpretation of facts cannot be separated. It is impossible to discuss any particular fact except in relation to some principle of interpretation.

The real question about facts is, therefore, what kind of universal can give the best account to the facts. Or rather, the real question is which universal can state or give meaning to any fact” (p. i). “We hold that there is only one true such universal, namely, the God of Christianity. Consequently, we hold that without the presupposition of the God of Christianity we cannot even interpret one fact correctly” (p. ii). Facts are important but brute facts are unintelligible.

One must have the ontic foundation of the Triune God to furnish the immutable universals to give meaning to any fact. Van Til argues that the “chief battle between Christianity and science is not about a large number of individual facts, but about the principles that control science in its work” (p. iii). Can a materialistic view of science posit the pre-essentials for the epistemic tools to do science (immaterial changeless universals)? It’s not possible. Only CT can furnish these a priori necessities such as moral law and the laws of logic which are required to implement the scientific method.

Later Van Til unleashes Hume’s skepticism to refute Butler and other empirical minded apologists. Van Til doesn’t reject facts and evidence, he only exposes the weakness of apologists who press brute facts without the web of Christian presuppositions and principles required to discover, analyze, and apply evidence.

Hume, on the ground of empiricism, proves one cannot know the future from the past (p. 21). Hume argues against the validity of Induction, yet this epistemic club can be turned against Hume. How does Hume, within his empirical worldview (WV), know that the language and its meaning he uses are going to be the same in the future as with the past? How does he know that the logic he directs against Induction (and other notions he disputes) in the future will be like the past? How does he know, under his WV, he will be the same person in the future as the past? He doesn’t. And the future can be as little as ten minutes or even one minute. Hume not only refutes all non-CT WV’s, he stultifies himself. Hume’s skepticism can be used like a hammer against atheism, empiricism, materialism, and naturalism, but it can also be employed against Hume. Hume just takes the future of math, logic, sense impressions, personhood, etc. for granted as he borrows CT’s epistemic tools. Only CT can stand up against such epistemic hammer blows.

Not only that, CT alone furnishes the epistemic environment to make the discussion intelligible. “Every fact and every law in the created universe continues to exist by virtue of the providence of God” (p. 55). “The Bible is the absolute authority by which we seek to interpret life” (p. 53). All facts require the rational pre-essentials that only the principles and framework of CT can furnish. Find and examine any fact anywhere and this process requires that which only God can supply: immaterial unchanging universals. A fact is what it is: a=a (the logical law of identity); furthermore this true fact ought to be held as true: this requires the moral law forbidding lying. These nonmaterial immutable universals are required to process and interpret any fact and only CT can furnish the ontic foundation for them.

see my Presup. apologetic books:

God Does Exist!: Defending the Faith using Presuppositional Apologetics, Evidence, and the Impossibility of the Contrary

or my new eBook Reality and the Folly of Atheism HERE