Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cornelius Van Til Confuses over 'Mystery'

Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong identifies himself as a 'Van Tilian', meaning someone who adheres to Cornelius Van Til's work. And here is a critique of Van Til's work which indirectly referring to Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong's theology:

“…our knowledge is rational because God is ultimately rational. At the same time, God is incomprehensible to us because he is ultimately rational. It is not because God is irrational, and in the nature of the case, ultimately rational, that we cannot comprehend him.” (p.33)

“It is exceedingly dangerous to confuse the orthodox concept of the incomprehensibility of God with the ultimate mysteriousness of the universe as held by modern thought… modern thought believes in an ultimate irrationalism [a.k.a mystery], while Christianity believes in an ultimate rationality. It is difficult to think of two types of thought that are more radically opposed to one another. It is the most fundamental antithesis conceivable in the field of knowledge.” (p.35)
(Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 2nd ed. Italics original.)

The idea of using ‘Mystery’ is not to say it is ‘irrational’ but to say that it is something so much more than our notion of rationality to the extend of risking itself to being the unknown.

The ultimate reality is being regarded as mysterious because we recognize our limited and finite rational ability comprehend it in the first place. In Van Til’s own language, this is the absolute rationality that finite creatures cannot comprehend yet have their rationality derived from it.

Van Til is forcing ‘irrationalism’ into the term ‘mystery’. If it is irrational, then ‘Mystery’ wouldn’t has been used. Hence the so-called ‘radical opposition’ between mystery and ultimate rationality is just a corollary of Van Til’s own confusion and eisegesis on the term ‘mystery’.