A Theological Basis of Conservatism, Part 3
In this series, we are establishing a theological foundation for conservatism, specifically the objective nature of aesthetic judgments. See part 1 here and part 2 here.
Implications of God’s aseity
The world derives its meaning by virtue of its being revealed by God.
Before the beginning, God alone was. And God created all things, and everything was what it was because God declared it to be that way. In saying this, I reject its opposite: it is not true that God declared things to be a certain way because, somehow, they already were that way. To assert something like that is precisely to deny the aseity of God; such an assertion makes God’s knowledge dependent on something outside God.
It follows, then, that the created world is revelation of God: the tree is not just there; rather, the tree is there because God told it to be there. And this applies not just to the location of the tree, but every fact about the tree, including its relationships to all of the other facts in God’s universe. When God declares, “Let there be light,” light, as God already conceived of it, comes into existence. All of its properties are pre-determined by God.
The world comes to man pre-interpreted.
The reality that creation is, at every point, determined by God means that all of creation comes to man pre-interpreted. The meaning of any part of creation exists, prior to and apart from man’s discovery of it. Truth is not something that man constructs out of the raw material of his empirical experiences; truth exists even if man does not.
It is on this basis that Van Til denies the existence of “brute fact.” In a Christian worldview, we do not merely assert that all facts are interpreted; that assertion is reducible to pure postmodernism. Rather, we assert that all facts are created facts; facts come pre-interpreted by God himself.
Thus, the aseity of God guarantees the existence of non-relative truth; the truth exists in the plan of God, and God’s plan is therefore the standard by which all other truth claims must be judged. Again, to deny this (claiming, instead, that man creates truth) is just to deny the aseity of God.
As an image-bearer, then, man’s obligation is to think God’s thoughts after him.
If creation does indeed come to us pre-interpreted, man is not permitted to be an originator of meaning; instead, his obligation is to reflect in his thinking about every element of creation what God thinks about that thing.
While our knowledge must be like God’s, we do well to remember that our knowing is always a different thing than God’s knowing. It is insufficient for us to believe that God merely knows more than we do; his knowing of any fact is of a different kind than ours. One illustration of this is that God’s knowledge of something makes it so, and this is obviously not the case for our knowledge. The distinction between God’s knowledge and ours points out the need for what Van Til calls an analogical view of our knowledge.
The system that Christians seek to obtain may, by contrast, be said to be analogical. By this is meant that God is the original and that man is the derivative. God has absolute self-contained system within himself. What comes to pass in history happens in accord with that system or plan by which he orders the universe. But man, as God’s creature, cannot have a replica of that system of God. He cannot have a reproduction of that system. He must, to be sure, think God’s thoughts after him; but this means that he must, in seeking to form his own system, constantly be subject to the authority of God’s system to the extent that this is revealed to him.1
About Michael Riley
Student of theology, apologetics, and Christian affections. Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Wakefield, Michigan.
- Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969). Cited from The Works of Cornelius Van Til CD-ROM. [↩]