From A Survey of Christian Epistemology,
by Cornelius Van Til; Den Dulk Foundation, 1969
Barth and his school would seem to do away with the usus instrumentalis of the intellect altogether. God is said to reveal himself in spite of man's intellect. But, strange to say, in this way Barth has really once more made the human consciousness apart from God, the standard of truth. That this is so may be observed from the fact that Barth's position involves the denial of the traditional conception of the absolute self-consciousness of God. If God is thought of as absolutely self-conscious, man must be thought of as created in his image. And if man is created in God's image, his intellect is certainly finite, so that it cannot be ultimately interpretive, but it is equally certain the avenue by which revelation must come to man's self-consciousness. One cannot say that the human intellect is paradoxical and mean therewith self-contradictory, unless one surround man with complete irrationality. [Underlining mine] And if man is surrounded by complete irrationality, it is, after all, the human consciousness that sets up shop for itself apart from God.
It appears then that even when we discuss what seems to be such a self-evident matter as the usus instrumentalis of the intellect of man, we must be on our guard against (a) all forms of antitheistic anti-intellectualism, and (b) all forms of antitheistic intellectualisms. [p. 187, 188]
We find that there is no more fundamental difference between theism and antitheism than on the matter of predication. Theism holds that all predication presupposes the existence of God as a self-conscious being, while antitheism holds that predication is possible without any reference to God. In fact all non-Christian views, in effect maintain that man has no freedom to interpret reality properly so long as the God of orthodox Christianity is in absolute control of history. This at once gives to the terms is and is not quite different connotations. For the antitheist these terms play upon the background of bare possibility. Hence the theist must contend that is and is not may very well be reversed upon an antitheistic basis. The theist must contend that the antitheist has, in effect, fundamentally denied the very law of contradiction, [I might note here that this editor(C. W. Powell) has been corrected for using the phrase "law of contradiction" and not the phrase "law of non-contradiction."] inasmuch as the law of contradiction has its foundation in the nature of God. [UNDERLINING MINE]. On the other hand, the antitheist from his standpoint will not hesitate to say that the theist has denied the law of contradiction. For him, the belief in an absolutely self-conscious God is tantamount to the rejection of the law of contradiction, inasmuch as such a belief does not place is and is not in a correlative basis. The conception of an absolutely self-conscious God definitely limits the field of the possible to that which is according to the will and nature of God.... If then there is such a fundamentally exclusive difference of opinion on the question of what the law of contradiction itself is between theists and nontheists, it is quite out of the question to speak of the law of contradiction as something that all men have in common.
To be sure, all men have the law of contradiction in common in the sense that all men, as creatures made in the image of God, cannot but function in a universe that embodies the ordinances of God. But non-Christians do not believe in such a universe. They believe that man is autonomous, that he is surrounded by a world of pure contingent factuality, and that he himself must seek to impose order upon pure factual contingency by means of the laws of logic that exist in themselves. Accordingly, the Christian, having opposite views of reality, has opposite views of the nature and function of logic in relation to reality. [Underlining mine] [pages 189,190)
When a theist and an antitheist together look at a cow, it is quite true that they will be in hearty agreement that the cow cannot both be and not be. But let them as the question of "to be or not to be" about God, and it appears at once that the antitheist says that God once was not and now is. In other words, he believes in accordance with the tenets of his system, in a finite God. And if it then be said that even the antitheist will admit that God cannot both be and not be at this moment, it is true but meaningless, because it is complete abstraction that can be of no influence on life. The real question is whether we can intelligibly think of the non-existence of God. If we maintain that we can, affirmation and negation are lost in a shoreless sea of possibility, so that the law of contradiction does not mean the same thing that it did before. p. 190, 191
Finally Hodge tells us, "The ultimate ground of faith and knowledge is confidence in God. We can neither believe nor know anything unless we confide in those laws of belief which God has implanted in our nature. If we can be required to believe what contradicts those laws, then the foundations are broken up." (Vol. I, p. 53) This statement too is true. Yet it must be understood as applying only to those who are willing to recognize that it is God who has implanted laws of belief in our nature. To be sure, none have any right to destroy the laws of belief implanted in their nature by God. We believe that, as a matter of fact, God has implanted such laws in man, and that no man has the right to break those laws, just as we believe that no man has the right to sin. [p. 192,3]
But he [Abraham Kuyper] has spoken of all this as witnessing to the world rather than reasoning with the world. If we keep in mind in this connection that the position of Hodge and Warfield is also glad to recognize the fact that regeneration is necessary if there is to be a genuine reception of the truth, it appears that the difference is perhaps not a great as it is sometimes said to be. The yes of Hodge and Warfield in answer to the question whether it is possible to reason with the non-regenerate consciousness, and the no of Kuyper, have neither of them been unqualified. [p. 194,5]
Our arguments taken by themselves effect nothing, while the Holy Spirit may very well convict without the use of our argument as he may convict without the use of our preaching. Yet because God is himself a completely rational God and has created us in his image, there is every reason to believe that he will make argumentation effective. [p. 196,7]
God can give what he commands because man has always remained his creature. There is then even in the consciousness of the non-regenerate a formal power of receptivity. It is this that enables him to consider the Christian theistic position and see that it stands squarely over against his own, and demands of him the surrender of his own position.
Still further we should recall that the ethical alienation, though complete and exclusive in principle, is not yet complete in degree. It is this conception of the relatively good in the absolutely evil that underlies the contention of Hodge that there is a moral consciousness of man that may be trusted in moral matters to some extent....
If we thought of the non-regenerate consciousness what it thinks of itself, we should not attempt to reason with it. By that we mean that the non-regenerate consciousness thinks itself to be independent of God metaphysically and ethically. If we thought there was any truth in this we could not argue with it, because with a being metaphysically independent, it would not be possible to come into any intellectual or moral contact at all. p. 196,7
[Underlining mine throughout the above quotations]