Friday, June 7, 2013

'Moses Wrote Of Me'

The relationship and/or supposed tension between Cornelius van Til's Transcendental Critique and Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy is part of one of the most exciting puzzles I'm trying to solve in my mind:
'Bill Dennison’s interpretation of Cornelis van Til’s transcendental critique together with his understanding of ‘the heart of Reformed Biblical Theology and its redemptive-historical hermeneutic’ leaves the possibility open that the essence of Cornelis van Til’s approach can be reconciled with Thomas Reid’s Common Sense Philosophy.'
This immediately brings to mind the possibility, which seems implied in Bill Dennison's approach, that there is a direct link between Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy and Biblical theology as taught at Princeton. In other words, Biblical Theology could or should be understood as a consistent application of Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy. Biblical theology without common sense makes little sense.

The aim of Princeton's founding fathers, as Samuel Finley argued in his famous sermon (1561 occasioned by the death of Samuel Davies), was to exercise 'our rational powers' not in merely curious and amusing researches, but in matters the most useful and important. To be in pursuit of learning, that ornament of human minds, not with a view only to shine more conspicuous, but that we may serve our generation to better advantage.

John Witherspoon's lectures on moral philosophy and rhetoric clearly served that purpose as explained in the excellent article 'Educating Community Intellectuals: Rhetoric, Moral Philosophy and Civic Engagement' by  Michelle F. Elbe and  Lynée Lewis Gaillet.

When William Henry Green pleaded with Geerhardus Vos to accept the newly created chair of Biblical Theology we should see it in light  of this Common Sense tradition.

Which makes it worthwhile to understand the thought of mathematician(!) turned Old Testament scolar William Henry Green. His mathematical background shines through beautifuly in this article on the primeval chronology.

In Peter Enns discussion of William Henry Green's understanding of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch we read this phrase:
'it is at least as plausible to posit the theory that Jesus' ('Moses wrote of me') words here should be read as a device to convict these Jews on the grounds of what they hold most dear: their authoritative Scripture'
Not too fast Peter, I would say. At this point in the article Peter Enns suddenly moves from a discussion of the scope of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch to discussing the authority of the Pentateuch itself. A strange transition in the middle of an otherwise interesting look at William Henry Green's approach.

However, showing how the Biblical theology of William Henry Green and Geerhardus Vos is built on Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy could be very helpful.

Seakle Greydanus was interested in the United States (where he had lived for two years with his family) which made him discover theology at Princeton. Could this explain the connection between Schilder and Geerhardus Vos concerning Historic-Redemptive preaching?

This direct link between (Scottish) Common Sense (Philosophy?) and Historic-Redemptive preaching, which I think exists, deserves a lot more scrutiny than it's currently receiving (or did I miss something?).

To be continued.

article by Peter J. Wallace on the foundations of Reformed Biblical Theology might give some additional info.

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