Van Til interacting with Bavinck and Calvin on Natural Theology

Herman Bavinck
Herman Bavinck

According to Bavinck apologetics cannot precede systematics. A true apologetics, he says, presupposes dogma. 5 There is in Christian dogmatics no place for reason as an agency by which, independently of the truth of Christianity, a natural theology may be established. The Roman Catholics are mistaken when they seek to work out a natural theology independently of Scriptures. There was a time, says Bavinck, when Reformed theologians also fell into this mistake. So, for instance, S. Van Til divided his work on theology into two parts, one dealing with natural and one with revealed theology. 6 But all this, says Bavinck, was due to false philosophical influences upon theology. He wants to return to the position of Calvin for whom Scripture was the eyeglass through which the Christian should read the book of nature. 7 “Originally natural theology did not serve the purpose of gradually leading up to revealed theology. In studying natural theology, theologians did not provisionally adopt the position of reason in order by reasoning and proof to climb up to the position of faith. On the contrary, the theologian stood upon the position of faith and in the attitude of faith looked upon nature, and thus with his Christian eye, and by means of Scripture, he would find traces of that God which from the Scriptures and through Christ he had learned to know as his heavenly Father.” 8 To this he adds: “Even if there is a knowledge of God through nature, this does not mean that there are two principles in dogmatics. Dogmatics has only one principium externum, namely, the Scriptures, and only one principium internum, namely, the believing reason.” 9 – Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, Chapter 5, A. The Position of Herman Bavinck

5 p. 38.
6 p. 95.
7 p. 73.
8 p. 74.
9 p. 74.
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