Saturday, June 25, 2016
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Thursday, June 16, 2016
An Epistemological Inquiry of Romans 1
Posed by Dr. R. E. Knodel, Jr. (RITS* Doctoral Committee, Fellsmere, FL)
At the “instigation” of Dr. Owen Anderson (ASU Philosophy Dept)
Like an International “Friendly” in World Cup Soccer, so Professor Owen Anderson has invited his Van Tilian friend, the poor Rev. Dr. R. E. Knodel, Jr. to comment on Romans 1, on verses such as 1:19—20, where God openly declares that the true “knowledge of God” is known by unbelievers (vs. 18) – even to the fantastic degree as described in vs. 20! His invitation included the idea that he would interact with “Knodel’s interpretation” (from a Princeton-Warfieldian perspective) so that greater light might be obtained by any and all that gazed upon our discussion!
This discussion is very personal to both of us I’m sure. In my case, I struggled between Van Til and Warfield for some twenty years (1968-1988). Having been nurtured since my conversion (late 1967) by Dr. John H. Gerstner of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary – a robust Warfieldian, and gaining most of my theological commitment from him; at the same time I had been mentored by Dr. Thomas Gregory of Westminster College (New Wilmington, PA) who had been influenced by a triumvirate of professors: John H. Gerstner, Gordon Haddon Clark, and Cornelius Van Til. As he came out of this process loving Dr. Gerstner, but a committed “pre-suppositionalist,” his student (me) graduated with mutual affections for both schools and a lack of assurance for whichever position he often adopted! But then, through the late 1980’s I finally committed to the Van Tilian epistemological position – to the great consternation of not a few of my former Warfieldian-based friends. Dr. Greg Bahnsen of Southern California had been very helpful in challenging what remained of my epistemological confusion. His specialty had been linguistic philosophy, epistemology and logic, and I saw those three regimes as being very helpful in clarifying the issues for me. I went on to get my Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Culturology while working in Scotland from 2006-2010, and all through that period (i.e., the late 1980’s) until now I have happily belonged in the so-called presuppositionalist camp.
With that short introduction, let me begin this discussion asking two questions of Romans 1 that helped me (I believe). I happily grant everything that the evidentialist (or empiricist) school sees in Romans 1. I would grant that it clearly teaches that because of what man sees of the knowledge of God, he is responsible before God for dismissing and twisting this knowledge. Because of what he knows about God, man ought to worship God! That is his only “reasonable service,” based on what he knows.
My questions, though, look in a different direction, to wit: (1) Does what God says about what man “knows,” bleed into the area of epistemology? When God declares that men are accountable, as individuals, does this simultaneously teach that men can “prove their knowledge,” or justify it, to each other – in an objective way? In other words, I came to see that it is one thing “to know,” and another thing “to prove;” and that while God held men accountable by their knowledge, he reserved the power of objectivity (proved/verified knowledge) to himself! As long as men reject God, they also relinquish certainty. When they take up Christ and his verifying Word, then and only then can they obtain certitude.
(2) Is this not what Romans 1 actually teaches? Would there be any way to prove the assertions of Romans 1 – if Romans 1 didn’t exist? The evidentialist claims that his arguments provide substance (verification) for the Scriptures (including Romans 1). I would argue, and the Van Tilian would argue, that these things are true (as in the cosmological argument, etc.) because God says their true – in places like Romans 1! I would argue that without God’s clarifying/verifying Word, mankind is left to stew in his epistemological vanity! I would argue that when God expelled Adam from the Garden, he also destroyed his capacity to serve as his own point of verification or ground of epistemology. But if he makes his peace with the God of the Bible through Christ, then all things become clear! If he acknowledges Genesis 1:1ff., then all definition and meaning spread out before him like a treasure. But if he refuses, the history of western philosophy rises up like a mighty witness – showing how autonomous man after autonomous man failed to provide any such security for knowledge! Modern philosophy presumes to teach nothing, and only suggests it has value in better understanding the “questions” men ought to ask one another. I would suggest that even this is too much, and full of presumption – based on autonomous man’s own assumptions.
My two questions are such simple questions. But I fear we shall not so simply answer them with Evidentialism’s/Empiricism’s methodology. And if we assume we can, will we not feel guilty of impiety? Do the Scriptures really teach that man-without-God can serve as his own foundation? Or, do they teach, that man is absolutely dependent on “the God who is there” (as Francis Schaeffer phrased it) to justify what he knows? Van Til argues, and I would argue, that without the God of the Bible man knows nothing – in the sense that he can prove it. He can’t even prove sexual differentiation, or “who” should go into “which” rest room! Such is the utter vanity of modern, autonomous, man.