My name is Nathan, and I discovered this site, and some of the awesome content it possesses, through the “Van Tillian Fire” wordpress. I have recently come to accept the philosophical line of thought known as Presuppositionalism. I however, have struggled to find an answer to a few questions I had regarding the philosophy, and it is causing a great deal of distress for me. The reason it is causing me distress, is because I have begun to wonder how much we can actually “know” God.
It seems to me that presuppositionalism, claims that we as Christians can indeed know with absolute certainty that the claims of the scripture are as they say they are. This, it seems to me, occurs because the Scripture is God’s word, and God has divinely revealed Himself to people so that they may know.
My remaining questions are as follows, what type of certainty do we actually have? Is it merely Psychological? Or is it also Epistemic, and Ontological? Or is it a certainty that transcends all of those things, produced by God Himself bearing witness to our hearts?
Thank you so much for your time, I have had so much trouble finding a person who is willing to grant me their patience and time, in order to help a fellow brother in Christ.
God bless you and your work,
Thanks for writing, Nathan. I’m familiar with the “VanTillian Fire” blog. Though Scott Terry (the owner of the aforementioned blog) and I do not see eye to eye on some issues, Scott has shown himself to be a boon to the kingdom. I am a Clarkian presuppositionalist. This is a different type of presuppositionalist than what you and Scott are. I am in more agreement with Gordon H. Clark than I am with Cornelius Van Til. Therefore, my answer will not be in agreement with what you have learned at the Vantillian Fire blog. You may have follow up questions after you read my answer. If you want access to those of us who are familiar with Clark’s philosophy, I recommend joining the Gordon H. Clark Discussion group and the Gordon Clark Discussion group on Facebook. I am a member of both groups.
I am not sure if this is where you are at right now, but I have found the issue concerning certainty about God drives some people nuts. I have had people who have read Van Til or those who are in agreement with them actually call me and tell me that they doubt they are saved because they don’t know if they are certain that God exists. If this is why this issue is bothering you, I can tell you that you are in good company. The Bible teaches that even those who are faithful to God may have doubts. For instance, John the Baptist (who was in prison at the time) sent someone to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah. Even though John the Baptist had doubts, Jesus praised John the Baptist for his faithfulness (Luke 7:18-35).
Certainty is only psychological. One can be absolutely sure about a false proposition. Also, one could doubt a proposition and the proposition could still be true. Certainty has nothing to do with whether or not a proposition is true. Clarkians define knowledge as the possession of the truth. Gordon Clark writes:
“This chapter has tried to show by an application of the law of contradiction – a law that is not merely formal but is itself an integral part of the system of truth – that truth exists and that knowledge is possible. Knowledge means the possession of truth. It is not necessary to work out a philosophical system and to demonstrate truths before having them. On the contrary, even in geometry, one usually has come into the possession of a truth before one attempts to demonstrate it; in fact, this will be seen always to be true if we do not restrict our vision to a narrow field. Demonstration and the arrangement of truths into a logical system is undeniably a desideratum; it is precisely the progress in such systematization that distinguishes the philosophical student from the intellectually dull; but philosophers are not the only people who can know the truth. Disjointed truths possessed are still truths possessed and are therefore knowledge. The man who has the truth that God exists, though his reasons for so believing are philosophically scandalous, is better off – he knows more truth – than the man who with the most erudite of arguments attempts to justify the false statement that God does not exist. And since the philosopher himself, in possession of many truths, never escapes all disorder, since his systematization is never complete, there is only a difference of degree between him and the common herd. If it be said that the latter have only faith and not “knowledge,” because their beliefs are not thoroughly integrated, the reply is that all knowledge is faith. Those opponents of theism who contrast knowledge and faith to the disparagement of the latter, and who like Carlson and Clifford deny Christians the right to believe, underestimate the limitations of their own integration. The important contrast is not between faith and knowledge, but between truth and error. 1”
Certainty has nothing to do with knowledge. All that is required for a person to have knowledge is that they believe a proposition that is true. Even those who believe things that are true and can’t demonstrate their beliefs are better off than those who don’t believe the truth at all. Of course, it is more desirable to be able to demonstrate our beliefs (and that is what we should aim for). For Clarkians, we aim to show that our beliefs are true due to necessary consequence rather than certainty.
1. Gordon H. Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things
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