Van Til’s Vision for Education 4


In concluding this essay, Blake enumerates several practical implications relevant to education drawn from Van Til’s philosophy:

  • The kingship of man over his environment under God
  • The inseparability of theory and practice in fulfilling the cultural task
  • The relevance of education
  • The unity of God’s plan imparts significance to man’s “cultural pursuits” and “basis for the unity of human culture.”[69]
  • Within the plan of God, the centrality of the kingship of Jesus helps us see and appreciate the cultural achievements of man regardless of his standing before God.
  • When we come to the implication of creation in education, we cannot escape the clarity of order in created reality. This order in created reality shows that each sphere of human society possesses its distinctive field of operation. Christian schools in this connection ought to operate free from interference of external institutions and functions under the direct authority of the Scriptures. The issue of intellectual freedom is related to this. Such kind of liberty is essential in discovering human potentials to contribute for the good of humanity.
  • Other implications of Van Til’s philosophy in education include the claims that quality and excellent education is only possible as an expression of obedience to God’s “law-order,”[70] that education faithful to biblical principles produces sensitive, discerning and responsible professionals that provide quality educational service, and that within this philosophical outlook, parental rights are protected, which is important as a safeguard in the exercise of authority on the part of the school.

In closing, William Blake confidently maintains that van Til’s philosophy opens numerous doors for us to see the ways and means to reconstruct education. In the midst of confusion in current education, there is a way out back to the historic path as we listen to Van Til’s voice. His admonition is none other but a call to restructure education in accordance to the vision provided by God in his Written Word, and thereby enjoy the fruits of covenantal obedience.

Personal Assessment

All throughout this paper, I adopted a sympathetic stand towards William Blake’s position. I agree that Blake’s work is true as a whole and the current condition of education is in need of similar academic labor. I am anticipating that many would disagree with my conclusion and would consider Blake’s study arbitrary and indefensible. I firmly believe that Christian educators of today should dig into the works of Van Til and heed the advice of Blake to exert their best service in terms of scholarship in working out the details of van Til’s philosophy. This is not a ghetto type of education but the kind of education that submits to the voice of Jesus speaking authoritatively in the Bible. And God’s revelation, which is the Bible, is clear.

Personally, I admire the way Blake presented the historical theological principles and the manner he introduced the implications of these principles in relation to education. It is encouraging to see a concrete and logical demonstration how one’s faith in the Triune God is really applicable in human learning. The claim of Christianity that her Lord is indeed Lord of all aspects of life is now seen not just a rhetorical thing or an empty claim but a matter of truth and substance. At least in this essay, we see the Lordship of Jesus displayed in education.

Moreover, after having said all these favorable remarks, I am cognizant of the fact that there is still a need for more elaboration how those implications came about from the proposed philosophical foundation for education. Blake’s emphasis on the Trinity as the unifying principle in human thinking seems too abstract and has a tendency towards impersonalism. I would prefer to employ the word “person” instead of “principle” to avoid such connotation. The engagement with modern educational philosophies needs longer treatment and a more judicious presentation of those ideas in the context of the overall argument of the cited books. And finally, the words employed by William Blake assume familiarity with the philosophical terminology. I think there is a need to define more those difficult terms for the benefit of an average reader. Terms such as analogical, a priori, predication, positivism, and the one and many are not common and therefore are in need of additional explanation. Anyway, Blake has done his part and his anticipated audience and other factors beyond our knowledge largely determine his work. In general, I believe that the essay speaks what is true and what is urgently needed to address the modern crisis in education.

[1] P. 333.

[2] Rousas J. Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia (PA, Pennsylvania: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961), xii.

[3] Greg Bahnsen. Van Til’s Apologetic: readings and Analysis. (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian Reformed Publishing Company, 1998), 19.

[4] P. 103.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] P. 104

[17] Ibid.

[18] William Blake, Ibid. Quoting Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969), p. 291.

[19] P. 104.

[20] William Blake, Ibid. Quoting Cornelius Van Til. A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969). Pp. 25-40.

[21] Ibid., p.156.

William Blake, Van Til’s Vision for Education (Vallecito, California: Ross House Books, 1976), ibid. Quoting Cornelius Van Til, “A Christian Theory of Knowledge,” (Philadelphia, 1969), p. 291.

[22] Ibid.195-212

[23] P. 104

[24] Pp. 104-105.

[25] William Blake, p.105, quoting Van Til, The Dilemma of Education (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956), pp.30, 31.

[26] P. 105.

[27] William Blake, ibid. Citing Romans 1:18.Cf. John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), Vol I, pp. 36,37.

[28] P. 105.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Pp.105, 106.

[36] P. 106.

[37] Ibid.

[38] William Blake, p.107, quoting Karl Manheim, Ideology and Utopia (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1936), p. 105.

[39] P. 107.

[40] William Blake, ibid. Quoting Rousas John Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science (Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1967), p.142.

[41] P. 107.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid. “Predication is the mental or verbal act of attributing or denying a property or characteristic (a “predicate”) to a subject…. Predication requires one intelligibly to differentiate and select individual things (particulars), to make sense out of general or abstract concepts (universals), and to distinguish them (so as not to make them identical) while in some sense identifying or relating them to each other…” (Greg Bahnsen 1998,22).

[46] P. 108.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Analogical thinking for Van Til means that “believers reason in terms of the light and guidance provided by God’s revelation (reinterpreting experience by thinking God’s thought after Him.” However, “man’s thinking must follow after God’s thought on the level of a creature, thus…recognizing two levels of knowing (original and derivative, absolute and subordinate). Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that when a reader “interprets (or criticizes) Van Til’s doctrine of ‘analogy’ – that man knows anything he knows (whether the world or God Himself) by thinking ‘analogously’ to God’s thinking. God and man know the same objects or truths…and the standard of truth for both God and man is the same, namely, God’s thoughts about whatever we know. This is far from an avenue to theological skepticism or irrationality, as unsympathetic critics insist. Rather, Van Til said quite categorically that ‘our ideas must correspond to God’s ideas’ –even though, metaphysically speaking, man’s mind are not the same as God’s mind (Greg Bahnsen 1998, 62, 100, 169).

[49] P. 108.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Bahnsen says, “The One and Many problem is the underlying issue or challenge which has characterized many philosophical conundrums down through the history of philosophy…. Van Til referred repeatedly to this problem as one that showed the futility and failure of non-Christian reasoning. ‘Man’s problem is to find unity in the midst of plurality of things. He sometimes calls this the One-and-Many problem’ (Defense of the Faith, 41). Van Til maintained that the orthodox, biblical doctrine of the Trinity provides a guideline for resolving these difficulties by maintaining the equal ultimacy of unity and plurality in God – who has created the world to reflect the same equal ultimacy between one and many”[(Common Grace and the Gospel, 8), Bahnsen 1998, 59, 238-240, 316, 326-328, 547n.58].

[54] William Blake, p. 108, quoting Cornelius Van Til, The Dilemma of Education (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956), p.42.

[55] P. 109. I prefer to use the word “person” instead of “principle” in order to avoid abstraction and impersonal designation to the God of the Bible.

[56] P. 109.

[57] Bahnsen states that “an ‘a priori’ is something that someone claims can be known as true (or false) ‘prior to’ – or apart from, or without reference to –observation or experience” (107n54). Bahnsen further explains “a priori” as a method “usually identified with the deductive method” (177).

[58] P. 109.

[59] Bahnsen calls it “a posteriori” type of reasoning. He states that this method “is practically identical with the empirical or inductive method” (177).

[60] P. 109.

[61] Positivism “was used first by Henri, comte de saint-Simon to designate scientific method and its extension to philosophy.” It was “adopted by Auguste Comte” and “came to designate a great philosophical movement which, in the second half of nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, was powerful in all countries of the Western world”. It is claimed that the dominant features of positivism “are that science is the only valid knowledge and facts the only possible objects of knowledge; that philosophy does not possess a method different from science; and that the task of philosophy is to find the general principles common to all the sciences and to use these principles as guides to human conduct and as the basis of social organization” [Paul Edwards. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Volumes 5 and 6.(London: Collier Macmillan Publishers and New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. and The Free Press, 1967), 414].

[62] P.109.

[63] William Blake. Pp.110-11. Quoting Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 2nd Ed.

[64] p. 110.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] p. 111.

[68] William Blake. P. 114. Quoting Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1963), pp.2ff.

[69] p. 115.

[70] Ibid.


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