Frame, Van Til, and Knowledge

On Pg 700 of John Frames Systematic Theology he writes:

1. “Clark assumed that any difference between God’s thinking and man’s thinking was necessarily a difference in truth value.”


2. “Actually, Clark and Van Til were not as far apart a they seemed to think.  Clark allowed that there were important differences between divine and human thought as to mode: that is, that God obtained and maintained his knowledge in ways very different from the ways in which we obtain and maintain ours On the other hand, Van Til conceded Clark’s main point: that God and man can know the same proposition (e.g. “the sky is blue”) and that our belief in that proposition is true only when it agrees with God’s. To say that God and man can know the same proposition is not to violate the Creator-creature distinction. God know the proposition with his divine knowledge, and man knows it with a human knowledge.”

The first statement is false. And Frame contradicts himself in his own understanding of Clark’s view in the second statement when he admits that Clark allowed for a difference in the mode. Clark clearly made a distinction between God’s mode of knowing (intuitive) and man’s mode of knowing (discursive).  Although Clark allowed for a quantitative distinction (God know’s all things, we know some things) he wouldn’t allow for a qualitative distinction (for, knowledge is knowledge. If God knows all things and we have nothing in common with him then we know nothing!)

Van Til never answered this question of the resulting skepticism of his view. I think perhaps it comes down to pride.  Van Til had created this system founded on the “creator-creature” distinction and called them to be “wholly other.” He extended this too far.  I can quickly agree that man is NOT God, but this applies I think to his physical nature as part of creation.  Knowledge is not included in what a man is (a man is a body and a spirit) and uses knowledge.  Thus a creator-creature distinction can be maintained without denying a point of unity between God and man’s knowledge.

Then, Frame says Van Til conceded Clark’s main point; that God and man can know the same proposition.  Where/when did Van Til ever do this????

Frame’s use here of “divine knowledge” and “human knowledge” seems, after conceding to Clark, to fall back to Van Til’s view in claiming God and man have different knowledge.  He should really say “God knows the proposition IN A DIVINE WAY OF KNOWING, and man knows it with a HUMAN WAY OF KNOWING.”  I take “knowledge” to be the content, the propositions, not the manner of knowing.   Van Til (and Frame) claim that there is a qualitative distinction between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. He writes“we should never confuse our knowledge with God’s knowledge.”  But he is confused.  This is poor language!  Why use the term “knowledge” in both cases and claim there is nothing in common?


About douglasdouma

I am a husband to beautiful wife, an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover Presbytery, and founder of Sola - Appalachian Christian Retreat ( In addition to blogging at this site I am the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher - The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf&Stock, 2017) and compiling editor of Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Trinity Foundation, 2017). I have a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering (University of Michigan), a master's in business administration (Wake Forest University) and a master of divinity (Sangre de Cristo Seminary). I'm an avid hiker, having completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian trail in 2013 and the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.
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