William Blake: Van Til’s Vision for Education, Chapter 6 in the Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in Van Til Perspective. Vallecito, California: Ross House Books. 1976.
William Blake earned his Ph. D. in education from University of Alberta, Canada. He served as president of Christian Teachers’ Association of the Northwest at Lynden, Washington. His essay is part of the collection, which formed the book, Foundations of Christian Scholarship. This book was published in 1976 and edited by Gary North. This book was formulated in order to honor the achievement of Cornelius Van Til both as a theologian and an apologist. The other volume formulated for the same purpose was Jerusalem and Athens published in 1971 and edited by E.R.Geehan.
William Blake describes the current condition of society in terms of “rootlessness,” “lack of vision,” “without direction,” heading towards “its ultimate downfall,” and suicidal.” In addressing such a dark social situation, he declares that we still have voices claiming to have an answer to remedy our chaotic state. However, these “visionaries” instead of leading us “out of the fog and night of our current humanistic bumblings,” have led us deeper into the “abyss of confusion.” It is in the midst of such a crisis that Blake is calling us to listen to the “clear and uncompromising directives boldly set forth by Cornelius Van Til.” Blake asserts that these directives are able to provide us with a “renewed vision” that “can turn the tide and restore to education its once honored role among men of noble purpose.”
The main purpose of the author in his essay is “to show the relevance and urgency of Van Til’s outlook for education at this time.” In this paper, the writer wrestles with “philosophical directives prerequisite to good teaching and learning.”
The Place of the Bible in Education
Blake introduces Van Til’s philosophy by stating that the major difference with the latter’s philosophy from other “Christian views” is that Van Til “begins more forthrightly with the Bible as absolutely authoritative source of truth for interpreting all of life.” Blake confidently asserts that the Christian philosophy of Van Til is rooted in “’thus saith the Lord’…and is our only hope for the future!”
Blake continues “Van Til sharpens our vision of divine revelation by holding firmly to the Biblical idea of the Bible.” He states “the Scripture adequately informs us about itself and its teachings. Neither man, church, council, nor state are needed to identify the Scriptures for what they are and what they teach.” Blake claims “Van Til ably demonstrates the weakness of various eclectic Christian understandings of the Bible in which human logic attempts to stand over the Bible as its judge and light.” He affirms that that reverse is true. It is the Bible, which is “our judge and light.” Blake maintains “to the extent to which Christians consistently submit themselves to the authority of Scripture, to this extent they acknowledge God as the center of their lives. To manipulate or to support the Scripture by human reason is to detract from its authority and centrality.”
God as the Center of Education
Another essential component of Van Til’s philosophy relevant to education is the claim that “by taking the Bible as absolutely authoritative can God be made central in education.” The centrality of God in education means “every domain of education must come under the scrutiny and influence of the Bible.” This principle is essential due to “the proclivity of Adam’s fallen race to believe lies and to suppress the truth.” Blake emphasizes “the daily and lifelong discipline of taking the Bible as the source of truth is mankind’s only hope for deliverance from the ravages of self-deceit and self-destruction.” This strong declaration by William Blake requires visible demonstration about the necessity of God’s centrality in education. The author faces this challenge by describing the current trend in education. He states, “Crucial to education is the availability of universally valid knowledge.” Modern educators knew this and “boasted much of the exponential growth of knowledge.” However, as the stockroom of knowledge increases, there are scholars who interrogated its “objective validity.” Blake cites one among these scholars in the person of Robert Nisbet. Nisbet laments as he examines the current tide in information explosion due to the lost of objective knowledge. Nisbet identifies that “objectivity of inquiry is not even a proper end of social sciences.” Blake understood that Nisbet’s analysis would imply that “objective knowledge vanishes with nothing of universal value to teach.” This results to “fragmentation” of knowledge and “strips the schools of that which gave them high purpose and viability.” In the end, Nisbet offers no alternative to solve this crisis except issuing “a return to the original ‘academic dogma:’ the idea that the pursuit of knowledge, in and of itself, is a self-justifying task – to be financed by state taxation, if necessary.”
Blake traces that the lost of objectivity in social sciences, which Nisbet clearly saw is an inescapable consequence “of the humanist captivity of these sciences.” He asserts that the current crisis in knowledge “is the logical outcome of Karl Manheim’s joyful affirmation of total relativism in the social sciences – a joy which is rooted in despair.” He then quotes Manheim saying:
Only when we are thoroughly aware of the limited scope of every point of view are we on the road to the sought-for comprehension of the whole. The crisis in thought is not a crisis affecting merely a single intellectual position, but a crisis of a whole world, which has reached a certain stage in its intellectual development. To see more clearly the confusion into which our social and intellectual life has fallen represents enrichment rather than a loss. That reason can penetrate more profoundly into its own structure is not a sign of intellectual bankruptcy.
This contemporary crisis in human learning is a concrete demonstration for the necessity of the centrality of God in the field of education. Blake is certain in his insistence that “the restoration of objectively valid knowledge in history and the social sciences consists in a return to Biblical standards of identification as outlined by Van Til.”
William Blake recognizes that those who are responsible for the existing predicament are guilty of inconsistency for “they owe any previous progress to the fact of God which they have sought to suppress.” He quotes Rushdoony building on Van Til’s philosophy saying, “God, clearly, is an inescapable premise of human thought.” Blake avers that Nisbet’s generation “instead of accepting the truth of God they have abandoned objective knowledge” and “intellectual suicide appeals to them more than submission to the authority of Scripture.”
Moreover, the progress of the sciences, Blake believes is not dependent upon the frustration of Nisbet’s enemies, but rather in a new beginning enlightened with a biblical vision. The implementation of this vision will thrive only in Christian schools, “for only they are prepared and legally able to build on the foundations of truth set forth by Van Til.” Blake stresses “the very survival and progress of science rests upon renewed growth of Christian education.”