The Inescapable Revelation of God

prpbooks-images-covers-md-9780875527895“The sinner’s problem from his point of view is to cast doubt upon this evidence, to make it appear as though the evidence were not clear. With the rich man who lifted up his eyes in torment, it is the effort of every man to put the blame for his failure to serve God upon the elusive character of the evidence for God’s existence. If he could rightly say that God has to be diligently searched for, that he might possibly be hidden in some remote corner of the earth, or moon or Jupiter, then he would have an excuse for his ignorance. Following Paul, the Reformed theologian, and he alone, will stress the inescapable character of the revelation of God.”

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.268

Philosophical Apologetics

Following on from The Foundation of Historical Apologetics:

yhst-81483472662466_2189_1292894“In addition to showing that Christ actually arose from the grave and that the facts recorded in the Scripture are as they are recorded as being, insofar as this can be ascertained by historical research, we must show that the philosophy of fact as held to by Christian theism is the only philosophy that can account for the facts. And these two things must be done in conjunction with one another. Historical apologetics becomes genuinely fruitful only if it is conjoined with philosophical apologetics. And the two together will have to begin with Scripture, and argue that unless what Scripture says about itself and all things else of which it speaks is true, nothing is true. Unless God as an absolutely self-conscious person exists, no facts have any meaning. This holds not only for the resurrection of Christ, but for any other fact as well.”

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.242-243

The Foundation of Historical Apologetics

Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and indispensable to point out that Christ arose from the grave, etc. But as long as historical apologetics works on a supposedly neutral basis it defeats its own purpose. For in that case it virtually grants the validity of the metaphysical assumptions of the unbeliever. So in this case, a pragmatist may accept the resurrection of Christ as a fact without accepting the conclusion that Christ is the Son of God. And on his assumptions he is not illogical in doing so. On the contrary, if his basic metaphysical assumption to the effect that all reality is subject to chance is right, he is only consistent if he refuses to conclude from the fact of Christ’s resurrection that he is divine in the orthodox sense of the term. Now, though he is wrong in his metaphysical assumption, and though, rightly interpreted, the resurrection of Christ assuredly proves the divinity of Christ, we must attack him in his philosophy of fact, as well as on the question of the actuality of the facts themselves. For on his own metaphysical assumptions the resurrection of Christ would not prove his divinity at all.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.242

The Perspicuity of Scripture


We should see exactly what is meant by the perspicuity of Scripture. It means that no human interpreter needs come between the Scriptures and those to whom it comes. It is opposed to clericalism. This does not mean that men who place themselves with us under the Scriptures, and who are ordained of God for the preaching of the Word, cannot be of service to us in the better understanding of Scripture. The perspicuity of Scripture is perfectly consistent with the Protestant teaching with respect to the task of the preachers of the Word, but it is directed against the Roman Catholic notion that no ordinary member of the Church may interpret Scripture for himself directly. The doctrine should therefore be definitely maintained against Romanism.

Perspicuity does not mean that every portion is equally easy to be understood. It means that with ordinary intelligence any person can obtain, without the intervention of priests, the main point of the things he needs to know.

“Fundamentalism” has sometimes abused this doctrine. Under the slogan of going back to the Bible, it often ignores the great insight into the truth of the Bible that the Church has already obtained in the generations past. This insight has been deposited in the creeds of the church. He who ignores the creeds under the slogan of going to the Bible does despite to the Spirit who has led the church into all truth.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.226-227

Everyone has an a priori

prpbooks-images-covers-md-9780875527895No human being can escape making an assumption about the nature of possibility at the outset of his investigation. All men have a priori assumptions in terms of which they approach the facts that confront them. The Christian frankly admits that his a priori is the assumption of the existence of the ontological Trinity, the temporal fiat creation of the universe, and man’s creation in the image of God. The non-Christian has a different sort of a priori. Every non-Christian has an a priori. And the a priori of every non-Christian is different, radically different, from that of the Christian.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.198

Science and the Bible

Dr. Albertus Pieters, when speaking on “Science and the Bible” says:

“The question of miracles lies outside the subject we propose to discuss in this paper, for the reason that modern science and the Bible are obviously entirely in harmony on that subject. The only thing that science can say about a real miracle, like the Virgin Birth or Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that it is impossible under the laws of nature; and this statement is made by the Christian with no less emphasis than by the scientist.”

Here it is forgotten that, though both the modern scientist and the Christian speak of and believe in natural law, they do not both mean the same thing by that term. The Christian thinks of natural law as God’s mode of operation of the facts in the created universe. God temporarily sets aside these laws, when he works miraculously. In contrast to this the scientist today conceives of natural law as a method of operation of the facts of the universe that somehow exists in its own right and by its own power. A “miracle” occurring in relation to this would be no more than once chance fact occurring in relation to other chance facts. In short, there is nothing but formal agreement between the scientist and the Christian on the question of miracle. The failure to see this has resulted in great damage. And all this has come about only because men have not clearly seen that special revelation is necessary to teach us the truth about creation as well as about salvation. In this way we arrive at false notions of salvation itself.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.196

Man as Reinterpreter

… The thought activity of man’s consciousness as it was originally in paradise was genuinely revelational in the sense that the whole of the created universe of God is revelational of God. We deal here with the subject of human knowledge, that is, with the mind that knows. As we have seen, the relation of the human mind to objects of its knowledge is founded on the Logos of creation. We ought to note in addition to this that man was created the only self-conscious reinterpreter in this universe. Man was to gather up in his consciousness all the meaning that God had deposited in the universe and be the reflector of it all. The revelation of God was deposited in the whole of creation, but it was in the mind of man alone that this revelation was to come to self-conscious reinterpretation. Man was to be God’s reinterpreter, that is, God’s prophet on earth.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.129

Escape Mechanisms

prpbooks-images-covers-md-9780875527895Moreover, all men everywhere, deep down in their hearts know that the world is created by God. At bottom they know that by all their attempts at explanation of nature they are suppressing within themselves the testimony of the real creator of the universe. The more self-conscious men become with respect to the real meaning of their own position the more clearly do they realize that their systems are escape-mechanisms by which sinners seek to hide the truth from themselves.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p. 182

Van Til on Romans 1

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [hold down] the truth in unrighteousness: because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. [Rom 1:18–21]

We shall not attempt to give an exegesis of this most difficult passage. It may suffice to call attention to the following matters. In the first place we observe that Paul says that men do actually in some sense see the truth. We do not do justice to this passage by merely saying that all men or most men believe in a god or believe that God probably exists. Paul says that the revelation of the only existing God is so clearly imprinted upon man himself and upon his environment that no matter how hard he tries he cannot suppress this fact. As psychologically active self-conscious creatures they must see something of the truth. They hold down the truth, to be sure, but it is the truth that they hold down. Nor is it that this truth is objectively placed before them only in nature and in the make-up of man. It is, to be sure, on this that Paul does lay the emphasis. But knowledge is also in man in the sense that his subjective reaction to that which he sees shows some acquaintance with the truth. The invisible things of God are perceived (kathoratai). Knowing God (gnontes ton theon), they have not glorified God. In the second place, it is primarily in this fact that men know and do not live up to what they know that Paul sees the greatest folly. Though they knew God, yet they glorified him not. They hold down the truth that is in them as well as round about them. It is in this immediate connection that Paul speaks of the revelation of God’s wrath. He says that God’s wrath is displayed on men just because they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. It is true that God’s wrath is displayed on whatever form unrighteousness may take, but it is specifically mentioned here that God displays his wrath because men hold down the truth.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.165-166

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