So it looks to me as though we are going to have a full bore discussion of natural law. This is fine, and about time. I do think that there are some genuine differences here, obviously, but perhaps not as many as advertised. Some of this seems to me to be a debate between advocates of natural knowing, on the one hand, and natural understanding on the other.
If you look in the comments on the previous “5K in your pocket” post, you will see a link to Andrew Fulford’s article on certain tensions in Van Til’s position, along with some comments on it. Here is that link again.
But if you will allow me to complicate things a little bit — for is that not my spiritual gift? — I would point out one other implication of any expression like natural law. If there is a law, then there is a lawgiver, as I have already said. But if there is a natural law, then there is also a body of persons to whom the legislation applies. If there is law in Idaho, there is a legislature. But there must also be Idahoans, who are subject to the law.
This means that we must consider the epistemology of those who are under natural law, and there are two aspects of this that have been noted frequently. One is that these knowers are creatures, and the other is that they are sinners. The tension that arises out of this is, I believe, part of what Fulford is pointing to in his article.
But there is another thing. As created, sinful knowers, we are (in addition) also complex in our knowing. Our knowledge of whatever it is does not just sit in our brain, like a solitary marble in a box. We have conflicts and tensions and contradictions in our knowing. In other words, I think that some believe that there are tensions in Van Til’s position when actually the tensions are in the heart of the sinner.
Think about the realities of self-deception. Self-deception occurs when you decide to tell a lie to yourself, and you successfully pull it off, and you are to blamed for having successfully lied, and are not exonerated for having believed it — because you actually knew what you came to not know. It really is deception, and you really are the liar and you really are the lied to.
The Bible points to this reality in multiple places:
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Cor. 3:18).
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26).
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Now, when we ask if a man knows the truth about God, we must answer yes and no. He knows it and he does not know it. He holds it under the water, but he has to hold it in his hands in order to hold it under water. He lies and he believes the lie. What about human psychology makes this possible? Hard to say, but this is something that all of us observe all the time. We see it easily enough in others.
This is the ultimate question, one that will come up at the Day of Judgment. What did mankind know, and when did we know it? The answer is that we knew the entire truth the entire time, and we did not know anything because we were blind to the truth. This is not a tension in Van Til only — it is a tension in Scripture. But this is only because Scripture shines a light on the tangles of the human heart.
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (Rom. 1:19).
“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ” (2 Cor. 3:14).
And the only thing that can remove this tension is the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified — resulting in the regeneration that Van Til saw as so necessary.