The Essential Van Til — As Suchness

Going hand-in-hand with what we said in a previous post about rendering God not God, Van Til points up how unbelieving thought assumes a neutral view of reality, and in so doing renders every aspect of reality as a final arbiter between God and man:

“Now Romanism does not go nearly so far as this. It does hold to the possibility of true propositional knowledge about God as an antecedent being. Even so, Romanism is so largely monistic in its philosophy of being that it cannot do justice to the Christian idea of revelation. Following Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas talks about being as such before making the distinction between the divine and created being. And this is fatal to Christian theology. It constitutes an attack on the basic distinction between God as self-contained and man as his creature. Being as such is a pure abstraction. Hegel was quite right in maintaining that it can be interchanged with non-being. To attempt to say one word about it is to attempt to make Reality as a whole, inclusive of God and man, the final subject of predication. It is, in effect, to deny that created reality is what it is, as exclusively revelational of what God is in himself to himself. It is, in effect, also to deny that all of man’s knowledge is true to the extent that it is a restatement by man of the revelation of God. Conversely, it is to maintain, in effect, that man is able to make true predication about reality without a priori self-consciously, revelational activity on the part of God. To talk about being as such is to talk about possibility as such. And to talk about possibility as such is to assume the idea of logic as such. And to assume the idea of logic such is to assume the idea of consciousness as such. And to assume the idea of consciousness as such is to deny the fundamental distinction between the self-contained consciousness of God and the dependent consciousness of man. In other words it is to assume that man can employ the laws of logic and by means of them legislate for reality” (An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 200, emphasis mine).

Believing in any “as-suchness” whatsoever renders the creature superior to the Creator. It makes that thing—as such—the final arbiter of reality, of even God himself. This is how we end up with so many bad theologies of God. We come to a question about God, and we try to answer that question in keeping with the rules of abstract concepts of being, act or becoming, justice, logic, goodness, etc.

Here is a quick example. God cannot possibly foreordain certain people unto eternal perdition. And certainly God cannot on the day of judgment sentence a whole mass of people unto eternal punishment. Why not?

Because, then God would not be good or just.

Did you see that? Did you see how what follows the “then God would” is a kind of third party, supposed neutral legislator that has its own independent existence apart from God. Goodness and justice—as understood by fallen rebellious man—become standards to which God Himself must be held accountable.

Contrary to this, for Van Til, we must begin with God as the “concrete absolute.” That is to say, only in God is goodness or justice concrete and not an abstraction. God IS good. God IS just. He defines what goodness and justice is, not us. And certainly not goodness or justice as such. There does not exist — at least outside of our own rebellious and fallen minds—any “as-suchness” whatsoever.

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Adam R

6 months ago

This article just blew my mind. I’ve heard people argue that God can’t only predestine some people to salvation because he wouldn’t be truly loving to do so. But if God is the definition of love, that argument has a deficient view of Him. Of course he’s truly loving, because he defines it himself, and we’re the ones who don’t understand it. It makes sense now.

Thanks for this series, Dr. Cassidy!

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