26 February, 2018

FAQ—Common Grace and Apologetics

Q. 1. “There is a gracious operation of the Holy Spirit deep down in the heart of the unbeliever that produces knowledge of God in him. This is the ‘point of contact’ in the natural man for the practice of Reformed apologetics ... This work of grace in the unbeliever occurs with and through the revelation that God gives of Himself in creation, according to Romans 1:18ff. — ‘general revelation.’ There is grace in the revelation spoken of in Romans 1:18ff., so that the knowledge of God that the ungodly has from creation can serve the revelation in Scripture. At least, it can serve as a positive point of contact for the Reformed defender of the faith or evangelist: all men know the true God through natural revelation, to which special revelation adds supplementary content.” (Source: Cornelius Van Til)

[This] is nothing other than the natural theology of semi-Pelagian Rome. There is no point of contact in the natural man for the gospel, whether the gospel is being defended or proclaimed. The unregenerated sinner is dead spiritually. The gospel finds nothing in the unbeliever, appeals to nothing in the unbeliever, attaches to nothing in the unbeliever, builds on nothing in the unbeliever. In the unbeliever whom God has chosen to salvation the gospel ***creates*** its contact by the regenerating Spirit. We call this contact faith, and faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
The knowledge of God that the pagan has from creation is at once held under in unrighteousness. Not for one split second does, or can, the unregenerated sinner use this knowledge rightly. The sole purpose of God with this knowledge is to render the pagan inexcusable. This knowledge, turned as it is immediately into the lie of idolatry, is never a point of contact, but always a point of conflict. It rages against the gospel; the gospel wars against it. There is no room in the inn for Christ.
Our Reformed criticism, therefore, of the apologetics of Van Til is not at all that this apologetics is presuppositional and antithetical, or even that it is 'too' presuppositional and antithetical. Rather, the criticism must be that Van Til’s apologetics is not presuppositional and antithetical *enough.* Van Til has compromised Reformed apologetics by the semi-Pelagian notion of common grace.

(Prof. David J. Engelsma, The Standard Bearer, vol. 72, no. 16 [May 15, 1996], “John Frame on Cornelius Van Til: The ‘Limiting Concept’”)

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