Suppression of the Truth

As children of Adam they have always made and continue to make the effort required to cover-up the truth about themselves and God. They see every fact as other than it really is. By means of their literature—drama, poetry, and philosophy—they try to prove to themselves that the world is not the estate of God and that they are not made in his image. Both Jew and Gentile have blinded themselves to the true state of affairs about themselves and their world—about their past, their present and their future. Not being creatures of God, they could not have sinned against such a one. They do not need, therefore, the atoning death of Christ for the remission of their sins. As Stephen said of the Jews, so also it must be said of the Gentiles, that they have always resisted the Holy Spirit—to their own damnation.

– Cornelius Van Til, My Credo (Jerusalem and Athens) p.7

Call to Repentance

Cornelius Van Til with Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In conclusion it should be pointed out that the doctrine of Scripture set forth above sets before men the face of God. God requires of men that they love and obey him. He made them perfect in his image. They rebelled against him. Now he is, in grace, calling them to repentance through his Son. He tells them about this call to repentance and love in the Bible. So Christ, the Redeemer, the Son of God, speaks directly to us in the words of Scripture.

It follows that those who take the Bible to be what it says it is, must present this Bible as conveying a challenge of Christ to men. They must use it always as a means with which to send forth a clarion call of surrender to those who are rebels against God. To be sure, it is the grace of God that is offered to men. Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem and her children, desiring that they might repent, so those who are believers must be filled with deep concern and love for the lost. But in their love for the lost they must, none the less, not lower the claims of God revealed in Christ who calls upon “all men everywhere” to repent (Acts 17:30). This call to repentance has application for the whole of human life and for all the activities of men.

– Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge p.39

The Only Reasonable Position

The argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity is objectively valid. We should not tone down the validity of this argument to the probability level. The argument may be poorly stated, and may never be adequately stated. But in itself the argument is absolutely sound. Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold. It is not merely as reasonable as other positions, or a bit more reasonable than other positions; it alone is the natural and reasonable position for man to take. By stating the argument as clearly as we can, we may be the agents of the Spirit in pressing the claims of God upon men. If we drop to the level of the merely probable truthfulness of Christian theism, we, to that extent, lower the claims of God upon men. This is, we believe, the sense of Calvin’s Institutes on the matter.

– Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel p.77

Man’s Stamp of Approval

The traditional method had explicitly built into it the right and ability of the natural man, apart from the work of the Spirit of God, to be the judge of the claim of the authoritative Word of God. It is man who, by means of his self-established intellectual tools, puts his “stamp of approval” on the Word of God and then, only after that grand act, does he listen to it. God’s Word must first pass man’s tests of good and evil, truth and falsity. But once you tell a non-Christian this, why should he be worried by anything else that you say. You have already told him he is quite all right just the way he is! Then the Scripture is not correct when it talks of “darkened minds,” “wilful ignorance,” “dead men,” and “blind people!” With this method the correctness of the natural man’s problematics is endorsed. That is all he needs to reject the Christian faith.

– Cornelius Van Til, My Credo (Jerusalem and Athens) p.11

In your light do we see light

In fact it then appears that the argument for the Scripture as the infallible revelation of God is, to all intents and purposes, the same as the argument for the existence of God. Protestants are required by the most basic principles of their system to vindicate the existence of no other God than the one who has spoken in Scripture. But this God cannot be proved to exist by any other method than the indirect one of presupposition. No proof for this God and for the truth of his revelation in Scripture can be offered by an appeal to anything in human experience that has not itself received its light from the God whose existence and whose revelation it is supposed to prove. One cannot prove the usefulness of the light of the sun for the purposes of seeing by turning to the darkness of a cave. The darkness of the cave must itself be lit up by the shining of the sun. When the cave is thus lit up each of the objects that are in it “proves” the existence and character of the sun by receiving their light and intelligibility from it.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith p.130-131

‘For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.’ – Psalm 36

The See-saw of Autonomous Man

Rationalism - Irrationalism

It is, in fact, thusly quite appropriate that, when apostate man discovers that his purely rationalistic ideal of knowledge—complete adequation of thought and being—leads to the loss of his own identity, he should turn, in desperation, and instinctively, to the idea of pure irrationalism, asserting that no one may know ultimate reality anyway. By claiming to know ultimate reality, or even anything about it, we are then told, would signify bringing this ultimate reality down into the realm of flux.

Such “pure irrationalism,” however, cannot be maintained, except as the dialectical counterpart of “pure rationalism.” To say, with the irrationalist, that no man may know anything about ultimate reality is, in effect, to claim absolute knowledge of absolute reality. Thus it is that the apostate man see-saws back and forth between pure rationalism and pure irrationalism without ever coming to rest.

. . . The fulcrum for both the modern and the Greek dialectical see-saw, between pure rationalism and pure irrationalism, is, as earlier, noted, the would-be autonomous man. If man refuses to see himself as a creature of God, or, more pertinently, as a sinner rescued by Christ, then he will quite naturally continue to go up and down, up and down, on this see-saw. When the rationalist is up, he proposes to have defeated the irrationalist. When the irrationalist is up, it is the reverse. But, if this spectacle were not enough to frighten you, then think of the fact that “the rationalist” and “the irrationalist” are really not separately existing entities at all, but rather, opposite, co-existing aspects of the one and indivisible would-be self-sufficient homo sapiens.

– Cornelius Van Til, Who Do You Say That I Am? p.24

A False Apriorism

It is customary on the part of some orthodox theologians to depreciate the objects of sensation as a source of knowledge. They have become deeply convinced of the scepticism involved in historical empiricism. They would therefore substitute an a priori approach for that of the empiricist, thinking that thus they represent biblical thought.

Two points may be mentioned with respect to this. In the first place, to flee to the arms of an apriorism from those of empiricism is in itself no help at all. It is only if an a priori is self-consciously based upon the conception of the ontological Trinity rather than upon the work of Plato or some other non-Christian philosopher that it can safeguard against scepticism. The a priori of any non-Christian thinker will eventually lead to empiricism. It can keep from doing so only if it keeps within the field of purely formal predication. In the second place, if we do place the ontological Trinity at the foundation of all our predication then there is no need to fear any scepticism through the avenue of sense. Sensation does “deceive us” but so does ratiocination. We have the means for their corruption in both cases. The one without the other is meaningless. Both give us true knowledge on the right presupposition; both lead to scepticism on the wrong presupposition.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.123-124

The Omniscient Teacher

It becomes increasingly apparent that the teacher in Dewey’s schools must somehow know that these teachings of Christianity cannot be true. They must protect their pupils from the evil influences of such disintegrating and miseducative doctrines. So they must be sure that these doctrines are not true. They must know that it is impossible that they can be true. They must be able to assure the pupils that there cannot be a judgment coming. They must be able to make universal negative assertions about all future experience. And they must make such assertions on the basis of present experience as it is intelligible without reference to anything beyond itself. In other words Dewey’s teachers must first assert that man knows nothing of a transcendent realm. But they must also assert, in effect, that they know all about it. They must assert that nobody knows anything about it. This means that they who claim to know about it must be mistaken. And then they themselves, nonetheless, presume to know all about it. They must be omniscient in order to know that no one can rightfully claim to know anything about God.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Dilemma of Education p.5

Paul on the Areopagus

In his address on the Areopagus Paul proclaims the name of the resurrected Christ to the Gentile covenant-breakers, would-be fugitives from divine judgment. Paul does not place himself on their level in order with them to investigate the nature of being and knowledge in general, to discover whether the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob might possibly exist. He tells them straight out that what they claim not to know, he knows. He tells them that their so-called ignorance is culpable, for God is as near to them as their own selves. He tells them, therefore, to repent of their worship of idols, to turn to the living God, lest they stand without the robes of righteousness before the resurrected Lord Christ on the day of judgment.

… Paul knew that the Greeks could not identify themselves truly in terms of their philosophy. “Chaos” and “Old Night” were their only substitutes for what Paul told them of the origin and destiny of the world. They tried various combinations of ultimate rationality (unity) and ultimate chance (diversity) in terms such as “form” and “matter” to take the place of creation and providence, but to no satisfaction. Even so, Paul could not prove to the Greeks in their sense of the word “prove,” that what they believed was foolishness and what he believed was “good sense.” Paul could not adopt the principles of the “free” first Adam to “prove” the principles of the Second Adam. Paul recognized, as did his Greek audience, that his ideas were, all of them, foolishness to the non-Christian mind. The Greeks would not believe any single one of them, much less all of them in their proper relation to each other, unless by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit they were given eyes with which to see the whole truth of God in Christ. Paul knew that the natural man, like Xantippe who is said to have kept on clipping her fingers even though these fingers were all that was left of her above the water, will keep on saying that Christ is wrong and that Satan is right so long as he has breath except the Spirit in mercy give him light and life.

– Cornelius Van Til, My Credo (Jerusalem and Athens) p.7-8


The inadequacy of Arminianism

Just so, from the Reformed point of view, all so-called “evangelical” non-Reformed theologies (all those which, although non-Reformed, hold to what J. I. Packer calls the “evangelical equation” of Scripture with the Word of God, such as orthodox Lutheranism, traditional Arminian-Wesleyanism, and synergistic fundamentalism), which have an inadequate view of sovereign grace, have also an inadequate view of Scripture. A God who cannot control history because of countless men with wills not fully dependent on his own can only make salvation a bare “possibility.” Christ might have died in vain. Being “free,” all men might refuse to exercise their supposedly “God-given-freedom” to “draw their check for ‘eternal life’ put in the Bank of Heaven for all men.” God’s plan, to call out a people for himself, might never have been realized. Needless to say, every major teaching of Scripture excludes such a “scheme.” God is God. Christ finished the work of salvation for his own. Only those “in Christ” from the foundation of the world died with Christ on the cross. Christ saved his sheep; he did not just make their salvation “possible.” The emphasis, therefore, on human autonomy in non-Reformed evangelical theology not only plays havoc with the scriptural message of salvation by grace alone, but distorts the doctrine of Scripture itself by finding the ultimate exegetical tool in the subjective experience of human freedom and by denying to Scripture and the Holy Spirit the power, authority, and necessity of invading the souls of men. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God do not change men, men first agree to be changed! For this reason no non-Reformed theology can properly be called a “theology of the Holy Spirit.” A theology which loses the right to be called a “theology of the Holy Spirit” loses also the right to be called “a theology of the Word of God.” It is no wonder, therefore, that G. C. Berkouwer speaks of the “isolation of the Reformed view of Scripture.”

– Cornelius Van Til, My Credo (Jerusalem and Athens) p.9