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


We must take Christ at his word

According to Calvin, God’s revelation to man is always and everywhere clear. It is sin that makes men pervert the revelation of God. It is because men are sinners that their “theology” is evil. Sin makes man spurn the love of God and merit his wrath, thus every man, says Calvin, is walking in the way of death. His is a downward journey on the staircase that leads to eternal separation form God. But God in his grace has sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the redeemer of the world. He himself tells us about his work of redemption. He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He gives us his Spirit so that, though of ourselves we would spurn this redemption, he enlightens our minds and quickens our hearts to receive it. Thus redemptive revelation, as well as foundational revelation, is self-authenticating. We must take Christ at his word. If we do so, then our reason will truly be set free. Then we can anew enter upon the task of glorifying God in science and in art, in philosophy and in worship. And then we are on the staircase that leads to his presence in glory forevermore.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism p.23

Present the full significance of the gospel

Unless man presupposes the God and the Christ of the Scriptures, he cannot identify himself, nor any fact of his world, or even relate any fact to any other fact.

Predication is meaningless except upon the presupposition of the truth of Christianity. The unbeliever can intellectually understand this. It is the task of the Christian apologist to present the absolute contrast between predication carried forth upon Christian premises and predication carried forth on the premise of human autonomy. Roman Catholicism and Arminianism fail to present men with the full significance of the gospel because they do not challenge the starting point and the methodology of the unbeliever. Those who hold the Reformed Faith in theology can be of inestimable blessing to the unbeliever if, instead of following the Romanist and the Arminian, they apply the principles of their theology to the method of their apologetics.

– Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge p.272

He is not what he thinks he is

The conception of man as entertained by modern thought in general cannot be assumed to be the same as that set forth in Scripture. It is therefore imperative that the Christian apologist be alert to the fact that the average person to whom he must present the Christian religion for acceptance is a quite different sort of being than he himself thinks he is. A good doctor will not prescribe medicines according to the diagnosis that his patient has made of himself. The patient may think that he needs nothing more than a
bottle of medicine while the doctor knows that an immediate operation is required.

Christianity then must present itself as the light that makes the facts of human experience, and above all the nature of man himself, to appear for what they really are. Christianity is the source from which both life and light derive for men.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith p.92

Various Disguises

The self-authenticating man has various disguises. He will appear as the “rational man” and demand that the Christian story must make peace with the laws of logic, as these are based on his vision of Goodness above God and man. He will appear as the “moral man” and demand that the Christian story make peace with the laws of morality, as these are based on his vision of Goodness above God and man. He will appear as the “scientific man” and demand that the Christian story must make peace with the facts of science. For these facts must be what the vision of the self-authenticating man says they can be. But in whatever guise he may appear, the self-authenticating man assumes that he is to be the judge…

We dare not curry favor with the self-authenticating man. We dare not claim that the Christian story is “in accordance with logic” and “in accordance with fact” in terms of the vision of the self-authenticating man. We must rather call him to repentance. We must insist on his unconditional surrender to the self-authenticating Christ. But we must do that in the interest of his finding himself, of his finding meaning in science, in morality, and in religion. We must do that in the interest of his participation in the victory of the all-conquering Christ.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism p.135, 142

What we have we have by grace

Van Til Color

Let us again remind ourselves that what has been said does not mean that Christians are in themselves wiser than are other men. What they have they have by grace. They must be all things to all men. But it is not kindness to tell patients that need strong medicine that nothing serious is wrong with them. Christians are bound to tell men the truth about themselves; that is the only way of bringing them to recognize the mercy, the compassion, of Christ. For if men are told the truth about themselves, and if they are warned against the false remedies that establish men in their wickedness, then, by the power of the Spirit of God, they will flee to the Christ through whom alone they must be saved.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel p.40

The Christian Story


As then the Christian builds his view of man, he does so unashamedly on the basis of the Christian story. This story is the story of the covenant. Man was created as a covenant-keeper, but he soon became a covenant-breaker. When we say he became a covenant-breaker, we mean by that that all men after Adam through the fall of Adam, the first man, came into the world as covenant-breakers (Rom 5:12). Here human choice is so significant that the action of the first man colors the nature of the actions of all later men. All later men are under the wrath and curse of God because of Adam’s rejection of the word of God’s love and command. And they daily add to their sinfulness by their constantly renewed disobedience. But then come the glad tidings of the grace of God in Christ. He who thought it not robbery to be called equal with God because he was God humbled himself to the death, even the death of the cross. And he who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism p.120