- Hardcover: 385 pages
- Publisher: Inst for Christian Economics (December 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0930464540
- ISBN-13: 978-0930464547
- Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,067,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Westminster's Confession: The Abandonment of Van Til's Legacy Hardcover – December, 1991
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In the final days of October, 1990, the long-predicted book by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary finally appeared: Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. In response comes Westminster's Confession. It is both a negative and a positive statement. Theonomists believe that "you can't beat something with nothing." It is not enough to demonstrate that someone is wrong; you must also show what is correct. Cornelius Van Til made this principle the bedrock application of his apologetic method. It was not enough to demonstrate that his opponents' systems of thought were internally inconsistent; he also showed why Christianity is the only logical alternative. But, he left an incomplete legacy. He refused to offer an explicitly biblical alternative to the natural law theory that he had refuted. His system created a judicial vacuum.Into that vacuum have come two rival factions: the political pluralists and the theonomists. The battle is now engaged.
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North did a splendid job writing this book. It was not loaded down with a theological vocabulary that only members of that profession would be familiar with. He gave a great historic overview of ideas which is worth the cost of the book itself. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about why Christian educational institutions always wind up going liberal. Another book that compliments this one is Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth. She gives a good historical overview of the shift in worldviews that have affected the academics in both the secular and Christians institutions. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
He wrote in the Foreword to this often sharply-worded 1991 book, "This book is a refutation of Theonomy: A Reformed Critique... My book is what some people will call a 'quickie.' The Westminster book is, too, but it took about five years to get it into print... In short, I did not devote my full attention to writing this book... So it is hardly a great book. It does not have to be a great book. It just has to be better than 'Theonomy: A Reformed Critique.' ... What I neglect will be covered by Greg Bahnsen in the book I commissioned him to write, No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics..."
He asserts, "(Westminster is) no longer willing to defend without qualification Cornelius Van Til's absolute rejection of natural law theory, both ancient and modern. Here is Westminster's dilemma: it had to break publicly with Van Til's philosophy in order to justify its rejection of theonomy. It had to reject his monumental legacy to the Church. Yet even now, the faculty has refused to admit openly that most of them have made this break. This is the thesis of my book." (Pg. xxii)
He points out, "Rousas Rushdoony does not belong to a local church, nor has he taken communion in two decades, except when he is on the road, speaking in a church that has a policy of open communion or is unaware of his non-member status. He has not spoken with (North or Bahnsen) for many years. But this is Rushdoony's problem, not ours... Several Christian leaders have attempted to get me and Rushdoony to sit down and discuss our problems. I have in every case agreed, even flying to Washington, D.C., in 1981 to meet with him. He backed out of his agreement when I walked in the room, and he has refused all mediation ever since." (Pg. 80-81)
He further reveals about his famous disagreement with his father-in-law, "The time has come to stop covering up what really is going on... I submitted to (Rousas J. Rushdoony's) Chalcedon Report my monthly essay... Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it... he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us (North and James Jordan) both... they replied that (the article) was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical... (Rushdoony) then publicly fired me and Jordan from the Chalcedon Report... What is this disagreement all about? It is (local church) Tyler's disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord's Supper..." (Pg. 334-336)
This book will be "must reading" for people wanting "in-depth" information about the Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy debate.
North's main point was that Van Til's apologetic destroyed natural theology. Phrase it as an if P, then Q statement. If so, then has huge problems for the Institutional Reformed World. I am simply assuming Van Til is correct at the moment, for both Westminsters make the same assumption (RTS is kind of excluded from this discussion since they have no clue what they believe). If what Van Til says about natural theology is true, and all sides agree (hypothetically) that he is right, then natural law is by extension excluded as a valid social theory. Therefore, on what grounds can you consistently oppose Bahnsen and even worse, what do you offer in theonomy's place? The silence is deafening.
(The Covenanters have a consistent alternative, but they, too, would be banished from the seminaries).
North reduced all questions to the "by what standard" query. His larger point was that if van Til's epistemology is true, and should be applied to all of life, then the only real answer is theonomy. Well....yes and no. It is true that if Van til is true then neutrality is impossible (thus negating 20th century Reformed political theory), but the specific exegetical theonomic thesis--ala Bahnsen on Matthew 5:17--does not follow. Bahnsen may in fact be correct, but simply positing Van Til does not justify the exegesis.
Anyway, the book is the best on the subject and is worth the price for a week's entertainment.