It’s struck me recently that many of Derrrida’s critiques of modernity dovetail very nicely with what I (mis)understand regarding Van Til’s thought. It’s a bit funny, if you think about it: the most conservative opponents of (the prevalent bumper sticker misunderstanding in IMO) postmodern epistemology are actually in substantial agreement with its arguments against modernity. I know its more of a Russia/US against Germany sorta thing, than a US/Britain type of alliance, but it still seems significant.
Anyway, I ran across this really thought provoking comment from Peter Leithart.
Based on a student’s questioning, I’m wondering whether “presuppositionalism” is the best term to describe what Vantillians are after. We don’t, after all, come up with some kind of set of axioms or theological idea “prior” to receiving revelation. We can talk about making the Triune God our “starting point” as much as we want, but faith in the Triune God is not in fact the “starting point” of our thinking (in either a chronological or logical sense). I like Frame’s revisionist view that “presuppositions” are really “basic commitments,” but that still seems to individualistic to me. I’d rather think of how we can ecclesiologize Van Til: Instead of saying that “all our thinking is grounded in the presupposition of the Triune God of Scripture,” we might say “as Christians we think and act from within the Church, which is the body of Christ and the community of worshipers of the Triune God.” This moves Van Til in the direction of postliberals and postmoderns, but that’s not a bad move in this case I think.
He suggests that Van Til’s articulation regarding ‘presuppositions’ does not conform to our thinking/formation/commitment as we actually experience it. This makes me think of Einstein’s criticism of Euclidian geometry, which was an abstract (and helpful) vision of reality that was formulated independent of experience. Geometry needs to conform to what bodies actually do when in motion.
Similarly, perhaps the tacit individualism of Van Til’s evangelicalism needs to be abandoned for the radical communality of humanity as we actually find his existence/formation/commitments, always and everywhere- as God actually created us. This move would take ‘Presupostionalism’ in both a more Derridian and Catholic direction.
Almost immediately upon hitting ‘post’ I thought of the old master’s little pamphlet Why I believe in God
In it he explains that he believes in God because as a little child his mother placed him on her knee and told him who he was, the nature of the world, and who it was that created both.
I wonder why (or whether- since I’ve not read all that he wrote) community as family found such a prominent place in his testimony, but community as historically continuing church formed such a small part in his systematic thought.