Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is Van Tillian Presuppositionalism?

Van Tillian Presuppositionalism is the Reformed and therefore Biblical apologetic school. This method proves that man cannot prove anything unless the Triune God of Scripture is presupposed; said otherwise, the Christian worldview must be presupposed (the Christian) or borrowed from (the non-Christian) in order to know anything. An Intelligible argument cannot be formulated from any assumption that denies the Triune God of Scripture. Cornelius Van Til in summarising his method stated that “The only proof for the existence of God is that without God you couldn't prove anything."
Van Tillian Presuppositionalism presupposes the existence of the Triune God of Scripture. There is no neutrality between the Christian and the Non-Christian, as the Christian accepts the truth of God, while the non-Christian suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1). God’s existence is ontologically necessary, and because man’s knowledge is dependent on God’s knowledge, our reasoning and logic must be in subjection to Scripture. The Christian interprets facts in light of the self-authenticating Scriptures; therefore, because Scripture has its foundation in the all-embracing plan of God, this God must be presupposed.
The Christian worldview is the only self-consistent worldview, as the atheist cannot account for the existence of anything without borrowing from the Christian worldview. Thus, the Triune God of Scripture is proven by “impossibility to the contrary”. Because the atheist denies the source of everything (God), they cannot account for the existence of anything; therefore, whenever the atheist uses logic, reasoning, morality etc., they are borrowing from the Christian worldview in doing so. Unless the existence of the Triune God of Scripture is presupposed, it is impossible to prove anything, as God is the necessary foundation for proof itself.
The Christian communicates to the Non-Christian the truths they supress; the non-Christian will either 1) continue supressing the truth of God in unrighteousness (Bahnsen compared this suppression to denying the existence of air while breathing it) or 2) by the Holy Spirit accept the truth of God that they formerly suppressed. In both outcomes, God remains sovereign: the non-Christian will continue to supress the truth of God, unless God appointed that specific time to effectually call them by His word and Spirit to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ, monergistically enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God.
(C), J. Williams, July 2011.


  1. While Van Til begins with the unknown God, Gordon H. Clark began with Scripture. Scripture alone provides propositional truth which can save the elect. John 17:17.

    I'm not a fan of Van Til for many reasons. I'm a Clarkian....

  2. Gordon Clark is wrong in regards to what faith is. He believes that faith is merely intellectual assent to propositional truths. This is the faith of demons, not the faith of a Christian. I'm not a fan of Clark for many reasons. I am a consistent Calvinist.

  3. I am a Van Tillian-Clarkian. I totally agree with Van Til except that in Van Tillian perspective we cannot use the law of non-contradiction as Clark does, but also I do not agree with Clark who use the law of non-contradiction as another foundation to prove the coherence of the Bible and the Christian worldview. I make a synthesis between these two presuppositional apologetic streams: that I presuppose the Bible and the God Trinity, where according to me, the law of non-contradiction is an implicit biblical teaching, and also it is the nature of the rational God of the Christian faith. So unlike Clark, I do not use this law as a faundation out of the Bible, but I use it as a biblical principle.

  4. Thanks for this. I call myself a Gospel presuppositions list. I believe the Christian faith is not primarily intellectual, but about a changed life. People simple and intellectual have had their lives changed dramatically by the simple Gospel. When you have experienced this, you know it's not a delusion. Starting from that basis, I accept all that is associated with following Christ. An intellectual ascent with no fruit is pointless. I sum up my position this: "There is nothing greater that a person can know than the love of God, and there's no reason not to believe it."