COMMON GRACE AND THE GOSPEL.
by Cornelius Van Til
Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972. 233 pp.
This is a fairly complete collection of Van Til’s writings on common grace and its relation to Christian apologetics.
Author’s Note and Preface
Part 1 [1941.E, 1945.D, 1946.F, 1947.C, 1954.D]
1. The Christian Philosophy of History
2. Abraham Kuyper’s Doctrine of Common Grace
3. Common Grace in Debate
4. Particularism and Common Grace [1951.I, 1952.A]
5. Common Grace and Witness-Bearing [1954.E, 1956.M]
6. A Letter on Common Grace (Masselink) [1953.G, 1955.L]
7. A Reply to Criticism [1966.Ga]
8. Reformed Dogmatics of Herman Hoeksema [1968.A]
9. Terminal Considerations (New)
From the introduction…
“The subject of Common Grace was originally of interest to the present writer because it seemed to him to have basic significance for the subject of Christian Apologetics. Any one holding to the Reformed faith is constantly required to explain how he can do justice to the “universalism” of the gospel as presented in Scripture. How can he hold to election, especially “double election,” without doing violence to the “whosoever will” aspect of biblical teaching? How can he hold to “total depravity” and yet find a “point of contact” for the gospel among men in general?
There is no way of discussing these problems adequately except by way of setting forth the entire “philosophy of history” as the Reformed confessions teach it. When the Reformed view of the philosophy of history is set forth on a frankly biblical basis it appears that the questions pertaining to “human responsibility” and to “the point of contact” find their “solution” in the Reformed faith and nowhere else.
But then, to say this is not to say that the “solution” offered on these questions is a “systematic” one, in the sense that it is logically penetrable by the intellect of man. The biblical “system of truth” is not a “deductive system.” The various teachings of Scripture are not related to one another in the way that syllogisms of a series are related. The “system of truth” of Scripture presupposes the existence of the internally, eternally, self-coherent, triune God who reveals Himself to man with unqualified authority.
On the surface, and by the sound of words, all this might seem to indicate a neo-orthodox approach to the question of God and His relation to man. The opposite is the case. The neo-orthodox view of the relation of God to man is based on the idea that since man cannot have a “systematic,” i.e., purely rationalist knowledge of God, he must, in purely irrationalist fashion, fall back on the notion that any “systematic” interpretation of God’s “revelation” is nothing more than a “pointer” toward something of which man knows nothing. That is to say, the neo-orthodox view of God’s relation to man is based on the modern, particularly the post-Kantian, philosophical notion of truth as being nothing but a limiting concept. Man is surrounded by an ultimate void and he must direct the “flashlight” of his intellect into impenetrable mist. It is over against this post-Kantian view of the “limiting concept” that the writer speaks of a Christian limiting concept. This enables him, he thinks, to set off a truly biblical concept of mystery based on the God of Scripture, who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, from the non-Christian, in particular from the modern philosophical, concept of mystery. In the former case there is an intelligible, though not an exhaustive, intellectually penetrable basis for human experience. In the latter case man has no intelligible basis for his experience and, what is worse, insults the Christ who came to bring him light and life.
This is the point of view that binds the several chapters of this book together. So far from being a system of philosophical determinism that stultifies human knowledge and responsibility, the Reformed faith, being unreservedly based on biblical exegesis, is alone able to deliver to men the unadulterated joy of the gospel as it is in the Christ of the Scriptures.”