Van Til’s Vision for Education 2

Theory of Knowledge

A theory of knowledge is vital in order for the above aspiration to materialize. It is claimed that Van Til supplies a theory of knowledge that would make teaching of permanent importance. The scope of knowledge can be classified under three main headings:

  • Knowledge of God
  • Knowledge of man and
  • Knowledge of the world

In entering into the field of knowledge, the question concerning the starting point is crucial. Blake warns that once this starting point is denied, knowledge will be shattered into pieces without correlation to one another. For Van Til, the proper and only starting point is the recognition of the Biblical doctrine of creation. Blake emphasizes that any attempt in human reasoning that “destroys the Creator-creature distinction” makes learning meaningless and contradictory.

The doctrine of creation provides the necessary “foundation for the meaning of human predication,”[45] which is the “exclusive original personality”[46] of the God of the Bible. Blake claims that “only on this Biblical premise”[47] can a man know himself or anything in the external world.

Analogical Thinking

Van Til designates this type of thinking as “analogical.”[48] Analogical thinking “means that man must think God’s thought after Him if he is to know anything.”[49] Man is able to know that he is thinking God’s thoughts “to the extent that God’s thoughts are revealed to us in Scripture.”[50] In other words, the Bible is the criterion in analogical thinking. The Bible therefore is the most important textbook in education. “It is the Light of all lights…The Bible as the voice of God must be the central orientating principle around which all knowledge becomes knowledge and become knowable.”[51] By doing this God becomes “the final reference point in all predication. God becomes knowable: man becomes knowable and so does the world he lives in.”[52]

Analogical thinking opens the way to understand the solution to the problem of the “one and many”[53] in philosophy. Van Til’s perspective acknowledges two kinds of one and many: the eternal and the temporal. The eternal One and Many is founded on the doctrine of the Tri-Unity of God, who is one being and at the same three persons. In God, both Unity and Plurality are equally ultimate. Van Til emphasizes, “Unity in God is no more fundamental than diversity, and the diversity in God is no more fundamental than unity.”[54] The reason why man thinks in terms of temporal one and many is because he is made in the image of God and he cannot escape no matter what the reality of his being a creature of God. The Trinity therefore is the “unifying principle”[55] in human thinking. The denial of this truth would result into a chaotic condition in human education.

A Serious Offense

It is considered a serious offense for a modern mind to uphold that “faith in God has something to do with the reliability of knowledge.”[56] Following the footsteps of the Greek thinkers, a modern teacher has two alternatives. The first alternative is labeled as a priori[57] reasoning. This manner of reasoning interprets the details in the external world “in terms of universal axioms of the autonomous human mind.”[58] This is also called deductive reasoning. The universal axioms are inherent in human nature. The other alternative is the inductive method.[59] He is the “modern empiricist.”[60] This type of reasoning denies the existence of any universal abstract principle but instead starts with the specific things in its attempt to explain visible existing realities. Blake claims that this methodology controls all forms of positivism[61] and it dominates the current natural and social sciences.[62] The two mentioned philosophical methodologies agree only on one thing that the God of Christianity can never be the unifying center in human thought, for to do so would pervert the reasoning process.


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