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Back to basics: A Reformed perspective on natural theology beyond Thomism

Updated: Apr 23

As Randy Newman's song in Toy Story goes, "Strange things are happening" in the Reformed world of the 21st century. Despite the readily available works of theological giants of the Reformed tradition such as Calvin (1509-1564), Bavinck (1854-1921), Warfield (1851-1921), & Van Til (1895-1987), there is a growing number of Reformed theologians who advocate for a "retrieval" of the theological insights of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the philosopher par excellence of the Roman Catholic Church. This has led to the emergence of the "Reformed Thomism" movement, which seeks to integrate Aquinas' ideas into the Reformed theological framework. However, this has sparked debates and controversies within the Reformed community, with some raising concerns that embracing Aquinas' philosophy could lead to a departure from the distinctives of Reformed theology.

In order to lend credibility to their quest to retrieve Aquinas, these theologians [1] attempt to engage in historical theology to demonstrate how many Reformed theologians, such as John Calvin and Geerhardus Vos ( 1862 – 1949), also incorporated Aquinas' ideas into their own theological systems. They argue that since the Reformed before us have adopted Aquinas, retrieval of his ideas is the best way forward for the Reformed world today, especially given the challenges of post-modernism and transgenderism. It is no secret that the 21st century is a more secular and challenging world to operate in, and many churches struggle to remain relevant. Retrieving Aquinas is thought to provide the church with a robust natural theology that can withstand the intellectual challenges of unbelief, and a metaphysic that can withstand the challenges of post-modernism.

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas

Professor Danie Goosen (himself not a Roman Catholic) of Akademia is optimistic about the future because of this retrieval. He lists a few theologians/intellectuals who are at the "forefront" of the movement who might "open up vistas of a bright future":

A characteristic of these intellectuals [John Milbank, David Bentley Hart, Catherine Pickstock, Rémi Brague, David C. Schindler, Michael Hanby and Edward Feser] is that they are current because they... do not bend over backwards, but return to the sources of the church in a 'radical orthodox' way. In and through this return, they simultaneously open up vistas of a bright future.

Danie Goosen, Die krisis van die kerk (translated as, "The crisis of the church")

Notice the names the Goosen admires in this article. Feser (a Thomist). Milbank (one of his chief influences being Aquinas). Hart (who is questionable by Reformed standards). Hanby (a Catholic philosopher). Schindler (A Catholic philosopher). The idea of a theological retrieval of Aquinas and his medieval Roman Catholic philosophy has captivated many in today's world.

The question of whether the retrieval of Aquinas is a legitimate endeavour that will truly serve the Church in the modern era has been raised. While the retrieval of Aquinas may appear promising, I believe it could ultimately prove detrimental to the Church, potentially setting her back a century if the retrieval succeeds. In support of this view, I will draw on the works of Cornelius Van Til, Geerhardus Vos, and Dr Lane Tipton, a teaching fellow at Reformed Forum and a former professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr Tipton's recent works (accessible at are particularly valuable for the Church in his regard. Through their works, I will illustrate the antithesis between the Reformed conception of God and reality and the Roman Catholic conception of God and reality. This antithesis would hopefully assist in showing why so many believe that any retrieval of Thomas Aquinas, and his Roman Catholic natural theology, is a dangerous exercise in swimming the Tiber.

Same terminology, radically different meanings

One of the errors the Reformed Thomists (I'm aware that this is a sweeping statement) make when they engage in historical theology is to take the superficial resemblance of terminology between some Reformed theologians and Aquinas (or other Thomists) to mean a wholesale acceptance of Aquinas' philosophical meaning that he attached to those terms. They tend to point out places where some Reformed have made use of terms like, "mixed articles", "natural theology", or "the inner light of reason", and then jump to the conclusion that these theologians "inherited" the very same medieval view of natural theology and it's underlying philosophical system as developed by Thomas Aquinas.

An example of this is a recent publication by J.V. Fesko titled, The Scholastic epistemology of Geerhardus Vos: In the first volume of his Reformed Dogmatics I, Geerhardus Vos treats the doctrine of creation. Vos poses the following question:

Is the doctrine of creation an articulus purus [pure article] or an articulus mixtus [mixed article]?

Vos answers by first explaining the terms articulus purus and articulus mixtus.

Ariticuli puri [pure articles] are those that cannot be derived both from reason and from revelation, but depend entirely on revelation.
Ariticuli mixti [mixed articles] flow from both reason and revelation.

What is clear from the above is that Vos employs the distinction between pure and mixed articles in his Reformed Dogmatics (for interest's sake, this is the only place he employs this concept). Armed with this information, Fesko concludes that "All signs point to Vos’s... views inherited from early Modern Reformed theology that are broadly Thomist". This conclusion is made solely on the single use of mixed and pure articles by Vos in Vos' Reformed Dogmatics.

Similarly, in a recently published work called Natural Theology (which is a translated series of lectures that Geerhardus Vos delivered near the close of the 19th century), J.V. Fesko, in an introduction almost as long as the lectures themselves, attempts to conclude that Vos inherited his natural theology from the medieval Aquinas almost unchanged. As such, Vos was broadly Thomist. Fesko writes, "Vos and Aquinas might seem like an ill-matched pair, but the two do belong together". Fesko thinks that Aquinas expresses a natural theology that is agreeable to Vos’ in the quest for his "retrieval of a Reformed natural theology".

In Lane Tipton's critique of Fesko's introduction to Vos' Natural theology, writes that "... for whatever constellation of reasons, Fesko’s presentation proceeds without comprehension of Aquinas’ eschatology of the natural and its implications for a Thomistic doctrine of beatitude. His work obscures rather than illumines the foundational differences between traditional Roman Catholic teaching (represented by Aquinas) and traditional Reformed teaching (represented by Vos and Bavinck) on doctrines such as (i) the image of God, (ii) the natural knowledge of God, (iii) original sin, and (iv) eschatological beatitude" [2]. Will speak on each of these four differences in the coming sections.

In Fesko's referenced work, there is no attempt to explicate the differences between Vos' Reformed worldview and Aquinas' Roman Catholic worldview to determine whether the two men might have meant different things even though they used the same words. Just like Van Til used Kantian and Heleglian terminology to speak to the philosophers of his day (without becoming Kantian or Hegelian himself), so Reformed theologians of the past have used terminology inherited from prior theologians in church history in ways that don't carry the exact same meaning.

For example, in The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Van Til draws on the work of Berkhouwer. Berkouwer mentions that although Bavinck used the term articuli mixti (mixed article), Bavinck has rejected the idea for which it usually stands:

Berkouwer speaks of the phrase articuli mixti which has sometimes been applied to such doctrines as creation and providence. He quotes Herman Bavinck as saying that the belief in the providence of God is an article of the Christian Faith. Concluding his discussion of Bavinck’s views he says: "From all this it is clear that Bavinck wants nothing to do with an independent natural theology." Bavinck still retains the expression articuli mixti but has in effect rejected the idea for which it usually stands. And Berkouwer expresses full agreement with Bavinck’s rejection. His reason is that in the idea of articuli mixti the element of suppression is practically omitted.

Cornelius Van Til, The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1967), 123.

Now, keeping with our example of Vos' use of pure and mixed articles, we will contend that there are two ways of using pure and mixed articles. The first would be a non-Christian (Roman catholic) way, and the second would be the Christian (classical Reformed) way.

The better understand how the same terms can be used with radically different meanings attached to them, we need to first establish the basic differences between the Roman Catholic and the Reformed worldview. We will first outline the Romanist view, and thereafter the Reformed view. What we will end up with is a rather comprehensive (but not near exhaustive) contrast between two systems of thought.

The Roman Catholic view of nature and grace

The Roman Catholic worldview has a very particular doctrine of nature and grace. Tipton writes that they hold to a Pelgian nature, and sacerdotal grace (we will explain the exact meaning of these words in a moment) [4]. According to the Roman Catholic view, grace perfects nature.

Within this nature-grace dualism, the form-matter scheme of the Greeks (specifically that of Aristotle) is accepted as the strict principle upon which "nature" was to be interpreted. As far as the "correct" interpretation of "nature" is concerned, the philosopher might unapologetically make use of Aristotle's method and thus will find a natural theology which will be without substantial conflict with (as there might be errors in reasoning) and in accord with supernatural (revealed) theology.

The revelation of God’s grace (supernatural theology) was to be added later, like the cherry atop the sundae, as a supplementary principle for interpreting the "supernatural." Grace would thus supplement nature (perfect it), and revelation would satisfactorily supplement natural reason [3].

Supernatural revelation is therefore unnecessary for the correct understanding of "nature" or the "natural world". Via the inner light of "natural reason", the philosophers are able to attain a faint (imperfect) but true knowledge of God. Supernatural revelation (grace), perfects this knowledge and teaches us more precisely who God is as the Triune God who became flesh to die for our sins on the cross.

Therefore, natural theology, formed from nature alone via the "inner light of natural reason" according to Aquinas forms an introduction to the revealed theology.

The fact that by thus speaking of two sources and two kinds of knowledge, Roman Catholicism seeks to do justice to the knowledge of unbelievers. "Only in this way, it is said, is one able to do justice to the ‘varieties of knowledge’ of God (no matter how distorted) outside of Christianity and special revelation, as well as to the conceptions of morality and the sense of duty which we still meet everywhere in life" [22]. It is by maintaining that reason can, by itself, apart from supernatural (special) revelation, attain a measure of true knowledge of God, that it seeks to answer all forms of agnosticism, anti-intellectualism and irrationalism. This is the primary attractiveness of Thomism for those in the Reformed camp. They believe that the Thomist system can allow them to build a robust and intellectually defensible faith.

The Roman Catholic view of nature - Pelagian nature

Focusing on "nature", why do Tipton and Vos describe the Roman Catholic view as "Pelagian"? This has to do with the Roman Catholic view of man and original sin.

The Roman Catholic view of man is as follows. Man's nature consists of the similitudo and the imago. According to the Scriptures, man is made in the "image and likeness of God" (Genesis 1:26). According to Aquinas then, the imago refers to an innate similarity to God, and the similitudo refers to an acquired likeness. The similitudo being an acquired likeness also refers to man's original righteousness, or "justitia originalus" [5]. This similitudo and justitia originalus are called an "added gift", "donum superadditum", over and above the imago (or the nature of man). Thus, only by receiving something that raises him over and above his own nature does man become a religious being, being able to "love, enjoy and live in God" [6]. Hence, when Adam was first created, by nature, Adam did not know God, nor did Adam fellowship with God. God had to infuse a super-added grace into Adam to elevate him above is nature.

The preceding is also connected with what Vos calls the Roman Catholic's "weakened conception of original sin". Vos writes that "According to Rome, man can only lose what was not essential to him, namely the supernaturally added gifts, the "dona superaddita". Because of his fall, these are lost. The essence of man, the "imago", consisting in formal existence as spirit, in the liberum arbitrium [freedom of the will], remained." [7]

The "dona superaddita", is something super-added to man's nature by grace. There is no close connection between nature and grace (the "imago" and the "dona superaddita"). The removal of the super-added gifts does not affect the nature of man at all. Hence, when Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their super-added gift and as such, they lost the knowledge of God and fellowship with God. But in their very natures, they were unaffected.

In doing so, Rome has "appropriated the Pelagian conception of the will as liberum arbitrium" [9] which means that there is no slavery of the will to sin, and there is no predetermination of human actions. Original sin is, therefore, not a total corruption, it's not a total depravity where the minds of sinners are in a complete enmity with God. Rather, it is a mere diminishing of goodness.

The Roman Catholic view of grace -Sacerdotal grace

Sacerdotal means "relating to or denoting a doctrine which ascribes sacrificial functions and spiritual or supernatural powers to ordained priests". Now, since the super-added gifts have been lost, how can man regain what was lost in paradise? Since man lost the "dona superaddita" which entails original righteousness and knowledge of God, how can he reattain this righteousness and knowledge? The answer lies in "sacerdotal grace". That is, grace dispensed by the Romanist priests.

In the Romanist scheme of things, the Roman Catholic Church itself is the channel of "grace" (through itself, first of all, and then through the sacraments) and the only way to obtain this "grace" in the world.

Because of this, Bavinck writes:

... [Every man in the Romanist scheme] becomes, for his knowledge of supernatural truth and for his reception of supernatural grace, that is, for his heavenly salvation, absolutely dependent on the Church, the priest and the sacrament.

Bavinck, Calvin and Common Grace

Grace perfects nature (the block-house method)

It is said that Aquinas solved the problem of faith and reason. By stating that grace perfects nature, Aquinas was able to argue that "reason" is a natural gift. But this natural gift has been weakened because we lost the "dona superaddita". Grace then perfects nature in that it elevates man back to his original state of righteousness. Some truths are then revealed to us and are accepted on faith. But these truths cannot contradict what has been established by reason. This entails what is commonly called the "block-house method".

Van Til first used the term "block-house method" when he described the "traditional" methodology of apologetics and natural theology. John Frame defines the block-house method as " apologetic approach that begins with beliefs supposedly held in common between believers and unbelievers, then tries to supplement that common ground with additional truth. Van Til finds this methodology in Aquinas’s distinction between natural reason and faith and in other forms of “traditional apologetics."

Thus, the first block of Aquinas' block-house method is a natural theology based on nature alone unaided by revelation. The second block is grace that perfects nature, hence, a supernatural theology derived from supernatural revelation. With the first block, man's nature, which is unaffected by the fall, can form a natural theology (e.g. proofs of God's existence and some other truths), that can be perfected (supplemented) by the second block, which is a supernatural revelation. Another way to view this is to say that the Roman Catholic deals with "mere theism" in the first block, and with "Christianity" in the second block. The first block (which is natural theology), derives knowledge of God from creatures, bottom-up, by using reason that functions on the world of sensible objects.

Since, according to Thomsim, supernatural revelation supplements natural theology, a "sound" natural theology (based on reason) will never be out of accord with revealed theology. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity which is derived from supernatural revelation supplements the proofs from natural theology that God exists. These two facts aren't contradictions, they are supplementary. But it is important to again stress the sharp practical distinction between the two forms of theology. Natural theology does not require any supernatural revelation for its proper function. It does not even require Rome's added grace to function. It can be developed solely from nature, by man's inner light of reason that is completely unaffected by the fall.

The problem with Romanist natural theology (nature - the first block)

[A] It presumes upon God's faithfulness in creation, and treats principles in creation as lucid in themselves and exists more certainly than God Himself

The Romanist errs when he treats logical principles, natural forms, causation, etc. as lucid in themselves (without prior submission of the human mind to God), and capable of helping men to discover their Creator’s existence by theistic proof. The Romanist argues in a "direct" line, where he presupposes that principles like the laws of logic and causation (on which these proofs are based or dependent) exist more certainly, or obviously, than God Himself as if it could impose "unity" on reality (or bring about unity in our thinking) whether or not God existed.

Now, the Romanist might try to invoke the distinction between epistemology (how we know) and metaphysics (that nature of reality) to claim that from an epistemological viewpoint, principles like laws of logic and causation are more obvious than God Himself, but from a metaphysical perspective, God is the ground of these concepts. However, even with the distinction between epistemology and metaphysics, the question still plagues the Romanist: How does he know that God is the ground of these principles given that God is known to exist only after a line of argumentation that presupposes that these principles have a specific nature and that this nature will not change in the future? The Romanist thinks that we can answer the question "How do we know?" without asking "What do we know?"

In the beginning, God claimed that he was the Creator. He claimed that his Being was ultimate while Satan’s (and Adam and Eve's) being was created and therefore dependent upon God’s being. Satan said that Eve should pay no attention to this problem of Being (metaphysics) [10]. She should answer the question, "How do we know" by disregarding "what she knows" concerning who God, as the Creator, is. Eve sided with Satan by trying to answer "How do we know" without recourse to "What do we know?", and by doing so she gave a definite answer to the question "What do we know?". The implicit answer is that she denied God’s Being as the ultimate being. She affirmed therewith in effect that all being is essentially on "one level". Why?

Van Til, working with the text of Genesis 3 (the fall) illustrates the above problem in the Romanist scheme in a very concrete manner [11].

Firstly, we must note that when God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were immediately confronted with a supernatural form of communication from God. God said, "You [Adam] may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen 2:16). With this command, God effectively said that the truth about the facts in the created universe could be known ultimately only if one knew their relationship to the plan of God [12]. Why? Because it is the plan of God that makes all created facts what they are. Van Til writes, "God did not, because he could not, look up to an abstract principle of Truth above himself in order, in accordance with it, to fashion the world". [13]

Secondly, Satan suggested to Eve that God’s statement about the relation of one temporal fact to another was not determinative of the nature of that relationship. Facts and the truth about their relationships to one another can be known by man, Satan contended in effect, without getting any information about them from God as their maker and controller. Why? Let's look at Satan's challenge: "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3: 4b-5). Satan contradicts the supernatural revelation of God, and subsequently says that "God knows that when you eat of it [the fruit], your eyes will be opened". This means that according to Satan, God (and himself) knows the reality of the tree, and whatever this reality is, it is not what God told Adam and Eve. This means that the reality of the tree is somehow determined apart from the plan of God in creation and knowable apart from God's supernatural communication (because how did God and Satan figure out the meaning of the tree?)

But then, how must Adam and Eve know the true nature of the tree and what the consequence would be should they eat of it? By observation? But simply observing the tree is not enough, because they require some knowledge of the future. In essence, what would happen in the future if they eat from the tree now? God "pretended" to know the nature of future relationships with His claim that they would "surely die". By rejecting God's interpretation of the tree and His plan for the universe, man must rely on other powers. Now man can only rely on the powers of logical thought that he finds operating in his being. Man has to assume that these logical powers can somehow legislate what is to be in the future. Man had to choose between taking the divine mind, or his mind as the source of truth about all facts [59].

Eve chose to be neutral concerning God's Word vs Satan's Word. In this neutrality, she was unfaithful to her Creator. With her neutrality, she at once affirmed the existence of brute fact (that is that the facts of the universe are not necessarily what they are because of God's eternal plan), which is an "irrationalist" view of the world where Chance reigns supreme. Thus Eve came to take the place of ultimate authority. She was no doubt going to test God’s authority by experience and reflection upon experience. It would be she, herself, who should be the final authority [14].

The Roman Catholic cannot present this choice between the divine mind or the autonomous human mind. Rather, the Roman Catholic conception sees nothing wrong with human minds being the "ultimate starting point" in "nature". Yet it is this kind of thinking that led to the original sin. We weep daily because Eve was "neutral" at that fateful hour. Eve’s "neutrality" implied the negation of God as God [15].

Roman Catholic theology agrees with the essential contention of those it seeks to win to the Christian faith that man’s consciousness of himself and of the objects of the world is intelligible without reference to God. This is essentially Eve's modus operandi. This is the essence of non-Christianity. Rather, God is the "final reference point in interpretation" [16]. To correctly understand something, is to understand it as it forms part of God's eternal plan. If any fact is supposedly understood as anything else other than this, then the fact is incorrectly understood. Van Til writes, "When man became a sinner he made of himself instead of God the ultimate or final reference point. And it is precisely this presupposition, as it controls without exception all forms of non-Christian philosophy, that must be brought into question. If this presupposition is left unquestioned in any field all the facts and arguments presented to the unbeliever will be made over by him according to his pattern" [17]. Every fact belongs to God and we must deal with it as such. There is no neutrality.

The above should be sufficient to illustrate why the natural theology of the sort that Roman Catholics propound will always prove frustrating to the Christian. However, can go further still to illustrate the finer problems with Eve's modus operandi. Dr Brant Bosserman explicates some of the philosophical issues of trying to attain knowledge by making man the "final reference point in predication" in his dissertation, The Trinity and Vindication of Christian Paradox.

We will keep our focus on the text of Genesis 3. The method of reasoning employed by Eve during the fall has plagued the history of non-Christian philosophy since that moment in time. Non-Christian philosophy is obsessed with finding some intelligible manner of explaining or gaining knowledge of the external world without recourse to God's revelation. They want to form a self-sufficient, independent philosophy that doesn't need God. Or, better yet, a philosophy that explains Him away, or relegates Him to the same "level of being" as a creature such that He cannot place moral requirements on us.

We mentioned that Eve's modus operandi was essentially irrationalist in that she implicitly posited that the world is a mixture of brute, Chance-generated facts. Nor Satan nor God has an authoritative interpretation of the tree (in the sense that their interpretation makes the tree what it is), therefore the only way to test Satan's (and God's) hypothesis is via experience [18].

But Eve's modus operandi is also rationalist in that it held that "human reason (seen as the whole apparatus of human thought, including sensation, memory, etc.) is the ultimate arbiter of truth and falsity" [20]. Eve, based on Satan's deception, deduced that God restricted access from the tree for selfish reasons [19]. The implication of this, again, is that there is a "meaning" that can be discovered about the tree that is not dependent on God. Reality, said Satan in effect, is wholly "lit up", lit up for the "creature" as well as for the "Creator". Man does not need to live by the authoritative assertions of his Creator [21]. Chance instead of the plan of God is the ultimate source of differentiation in the space-time world. There is no revelation of God the creator in "nature" any more than there is in man. This is consistent with the Romanist nature-grace dualism.

What is important to appreciate is that when men reject God’s special guidance, they must settle for a hypothetical sort of rationalism that is at the mercy of an irrational universe, and this "irrationalist-rationalist" dialectic has plagued the entirety of secular human philosophy since the fall.

Non-Christians, like Eve during the fall, want to know independently of God. But to know something is to know it as it relates to other facts. Knowledge is about relating things to an all-encompassing whole. The dilemma that confronts the non-Christian methodology, in general, is therefore that one must either know everything or one cannot know anything. One assumption is that unless one knows the terms or objects of propositions in the fullness of their relationships one does not know them at all, for it is conceivable that an unforeseen fact might render all that we currently believe patently false (e.g., that we are under the influence of Descartes’ evil demon). A second assumption is that the terms of propositions are not merely unknown but ultimately unknowable in all their relationships.

And thus the non-Christian then proceeds to create for himself the problem of the one and the many. In the first place, the non-Christian relies on "atomistic brute facts". These facts are thought to be the immediate objects of knowledge in a Chance-governed world. But this cannot be, because if the non-Christian tries to identify these "atomistic brute facts", it becomes immediately apparent that there is a dependence on universal (shared) qualities (e.g. this is red, or, there is a dog). Even pointer words betray this. "here" and "there" depends on a general notion of "presence". Thus we are back to the idea of a system. Without a system, the facts become indistinguishable. The facts are like beads with no holes in them, as such, they cannot be strung together into a system (where the string represents the system).

The non-Christian is then forced to turn to abstractions. This involves divorcing certain characteristics and features of the creation from their concrete contexts (e.g., being, logic, entropy, evolutionary development, language, etc.), and treating them as if they were self-intelligible, immutable principles [23]. Ideas like "red" or "dog" in general become the objects of knowledge (as universals that shed the details of the particular) and not the brute facts in and of themselves. These abstractions are fixed and retain their essential qualities over time [24]. But the same issue arises once again. These "self-intelligible" abstractions are themselves vacuous and "atomistic" truths - that is, they are supposed to be able to be self-intelligible in complete isolation from other facts, apart from a system of facts. But they lack any definition unless they are contrasted with other concrete facts. What does "white" mean apart from knowing that it is incompatible with "black", and yet perfectly compatible with "sweetness" and "cubeness" (in the form of a sugar cube)? These universals are clearly not self-defined, but their definition is mediated through different factual combinations. These supposedly "self-intelligible" abstractions are like an infinitely long string with no end, as such you can never string beads (individual facts) into it. "Without such a system of truth, there would be no distinguishable difference between one particular and another. They would be as impossible to distinguish from one another as the millions of drops of water in the ocean would be indistinguishable from one another by the naked eye" [25]

We must also note that by taking these abstractions as objects of knowledge, the non-Christian has given up knowing "individual things-in-themselves". By shedding the details of the particular to abstract the universal, the non-Christian now calls the individuality of the thing-in-itself "accidental". The "accidental" properties are Chance-generated, deriving from "pure unintelligible matter". This effectively destroys any meaning found in particular persons, objects or even history. If knowledge is now just these static self-intelligible abstractions, there is no use to study historical events. All you will find in these events are the very same abstractions mixed with Chance.

Even a dialectical conclusion, that somehow these abstractions and brute facts "work together" to qualify each other is problematic. How does the non-Christian know that the principle of chance working on abstractions will continue to be conducive to knowledge, quality of life, harmony in society and ethical judgements? How does he know that the flux of temporal reality won't swallow up the intelligibility of the abstractions, or that the abstractions won't swallow up the flux and bring everything to a standstill? The dialectical conclusion also makes it impossible to attain any knowledge.

And so we see, the unbeliever (or the Romanist trying to derive a natural theology), who rejects from the outset that he is reliant on God and His authoritative Word, is without any dependable standard for making any knowledge claims whatsoever. He cannot justify his belief that when he assigns (even if you believe that the mind is passive in the assignment) qualities to empirical objects (e.g. this is red) or asserts inferential relationships between ideas, these judgements have any basis in reality.

The non-Christian history of philosophy has culminated in the post-modernism and complete subjectivism we see today. The Romanists place a great emphasis on the work of Aristotle (who greatly developed the "form-matter" scheme briefly explicated above). Still, it was Aristotle who laid the foundations for the post-modernism of today, even if he wanted to argue that knowledge of objective reality can be attained. You cannot defeat the non-Christian philosophy of today by appealing to one of its precursors. The cultural war isn't between those who follow Aristotle / Aquinas and those who don't. It's between those who serve the Creator and those who serve the creature.

It is, therefore, impossible to build a "natural theology" apart from the supernatural communication from God.

[B] It has a weakened, unbiblical conception of sin

In addition to the issues explicated above (and perhaps in more devastating fashion) the Romanist scheme does not reckon with the reality of man's total depravity. Their weakened conception of original sin and the fall is out of accord with Scripture which clearly states that...

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9, ESV

As we discussed before this section, Aquinas believed that the nature of man was fundamentally unaffected by the fall. Autonomous man can still discover in "nature" that God exists, but this truth would "only be known by a few, and after a long time, and with the addition of many errors." [26] These "errors" that philosophers make when attempting to attain the knowledge of God is not because of sin, but because of their finitude. Moreover, Aquinas indicates that knowledge can only be attained "after a long time" and only by "a few". This indicates that this knowledge of God from nature is only reserved for an elite smart few that can follow the arguments for God's existence. The lack of knowledge of God (or professed lack of it) is not due to sin or rebellion, but because of man's finitude.

The issue with this is that according to the Thomist view then, the unbeliever is essentially correct in what he thinks of himself, and about the powers of his intellect and will. Remember, the "image of God" in terms of the rational nature of man is still intact and unaffected by the fall. There is essentially no sin involved in the "worldview" that the unbeliever professes thus far [27]. It is hard to see how the Gospel or the role of Special revelation can motivate the unbeliever to deny himself in any meaningful way. Why does the unbeliever need Jesus if they're doing fine on their own? Moreover, why shouldn't God's special revelation about man (and this world) not be made subject to the very same powers of man's intellect and will before man accepts it as such? The best that the Romanist can offer is that Christianity is a mere addition to what the unbeliever already possesses.

Are the hearts of philosophers like Aristotle (who certainly did not know Christ) not "deceitful above all things, and desperately sick?" That's what the Bible says. These men did not seek God in nature. They sought to suppress the knowledge of God revealed to them. The Reformed doctrine of total depravity teaches that man is (willfully) blind to the truth wherever it should appear. You see, John Calvin knew this and wrote that in not recognizing the fact of the fall, the philosophers (that is, the secular non-Christian philosophers) throw everything into confusion. They do not reckon with the fact that "at first every part of the soul was formed to rectitude [morally correct behaviour and thinking] but that after the fall man is equally corrupt in all aspects of his being. He writes that the philosophers (and explicitly mentions Aristotle) are "unacquainted with the corruption of nature" which leads them to "erroneously confounding two states of man". The confounding is between the state of man before the fall, and the state of man after the fall.

Scripture reveals that the believer’s mind has been renewed (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 3:23-24), and the unbeliever’s mind is warped and distorted by the corruption of sin (Rom. 1:18-32; 8:7; 1 Cor. 2; Eph. 4:17-19). This means that the unbeliever cannot interpret nature aright in his fallen state and that he will suppress the knowledge of God wherever it appears. The intellect of man (his entire personality) was also affected by the fall.

Van Til illustrates the above via the analogy of a buzz saw. The intellect of the unbeliever might still be quite keen - hence the blades of the saw might be clean and sharp - however, the saw has been set to the incorrect angle. The result is that everything that it cuts is cut at the wrong angle. All the facts that are presented to the unbeliever will be cut along this incorrect angle, even when the truth of Christianity is presented to them. The result is that however much they may formally understand the truth of Christianity, men still worship "the dream and figment of their own heart", as Calvin wrote.

Now, it might be objected that (somehow) Aquinas does teach the doctrine of total depravity in contradistinction with modern Roman Catholic theology. For example, a Reformed blog that is part of the Thomistic movement provides the following two quotes from Aquinas to show how Aquinas held to total depravity:

…man cannot abstain from all venial sin on account of the corruption of his lower appetite of sensuality. For man can, indeed, repress each of its movements (and hence they are sinful and voluntary), but not all, because while he is resisting one, another may arise, and also because the reason cannot always be alert to avoid these movements...

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 71-114

Nevertheless he could not have done it [abstained from sinning] without God's help to uphold him in good, since if this had been withdrawn, even his nature would have fallen back into nothingness.

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 71-114

Given what we know about Roman catholic (Thomistic) metaphysics, are the above two quotations affirmations of total depravity on the part of Aquinas? Indeed not! Here we can see Aquinas' teaching that Adam when he was first created, required the "donum superadditum" to elevate himself above his created nature and that once the "donum superadditum" has been removed, man's nature will then fall back into nothingness (becoming more finite), where he can no longer abstain from sin simply because of his finite nature. There is no depravity involved in the above. It is a mere effect of man's finite nature after he lost the "donum superadditum". This is often referred to as "concupiscence" or the "fomes peccati" (the tinder for sin), which indicates an inclination or propensity towards sin. Concupiscence itself is not a sin, it leads to the possibility of committing sinful acts due to the disordered desires, emotions, and inclinations that stem from the finite human nature. This simply isn't Reformed theology.

We can see how Rome might think it is possible to build a natural theology via the inner light of reason because the intellect of man is "unaffected by the fall". However, as Reformed, we know that according to the Scriptures, the natural man does not seek God.

The problem with Romanist supernatural theology (grace - the second block)

[A] Man cannot understand himself let alone God without the light of Christianity. Insofar the first block fails, the second block fails

We now turn to consider the Romanist view of supernatural theology (revealed theology) and its relation to its conception of natural theology. Because the Romanist has drawn the sharp distinction between reason and faith (nature and grace), it has to be explained how natural theology can integrate with supernatural theology. We have already explained that supernatural theology cannot contradict what has been established by natural theology (given the natural theology was properly developed).

The important thing to note here is that just as the "dona superaddita" is added back to human nature to re-proportion man upwards towards God (restoring original righteousness), so supernatural revelation is merely something that is added to the natural knowledge of man. But this is simply unbiblical.

The natural man must be “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10). Charles Hodge writes, "The Bible makes eternal life to consist in knowledge, sinfulness is blindness or darkness; the transition from a state of sin to a state of holiness is a translation from darkness into light; men are said to be renewed unto knowledge, i.e., knowledge is the effect of regeneration, conversion is said to be affected by the revelation of Christ; the rejection of Him as the Son of God and Saviour of men is referred to the fact that the eyes of those who believe not are blinded by the god of this world."

Supernatural revelation is, therefore, not merely something that is added to the natural knowledge of (sinful man). It renews the natural man unto the knowledge of the truth.

[B] The Romanist view of grace as sacerdotal involves an unbiblical picture of the salvation of men

What the Roman Catholic church promises the unbeliever, is that "although he is naturally free, he may have a greater degree of freedom through Christ" [28]. Through grace, man might be lifted in the scale of being (the super-added grace) being restored, toward a greater participation in the being of God. In this state, the intellect will be re-proportioned to no longer know God via third mediums (creation) but will know God directly, and perceive the essence of God directly (this is called beatitude, or the beatific vision). According to Aquinas, salvation is the process by which human beings are reconciled to God and attain eternal life in union with Him. This process is made possible by God's grace (as dispensed by the priests), which elevates human beings beyond their natural capacities and enables them to participate in the divine life. The result is deification (the act of making someone or something into a god). Aquinas did not believe that humans are absorbed into God, they do retain their identities, but he believed that they do partake in God's life and attributes. Humans are elevated (perfected) towards greater participation in the being of God to the point where they can look upon God's face (essence) directly (i.e. the knowledge of God is no longer mediated, but the essence of God Himself becomes the form by which we know God).

Now, the Reformed Thomist might certainly deviate from Aquinas' teaching of the Romanist mass and the priesthood (although it cannot be denied that Aquinas' Thomism informed the way that he thought about those subject matters), they cannot deviate from this view of salvation - as this is embedded in the Thomist metaphysic and nature-grace scheme. To regurgitate this one more time, a core principle of Thomism is the nature-grace dualism and the teaching that "grace perfects nature". If the Thomist holds that man is fundamentally unaffected in his intellect (as he can construct a natural theology), then it means that he merely needs to be supplemented by grace towards a greater participation in the being of God. If a Reformed Thomist wants to deviate from this view of salvation, they would be hard-pressed to show how they can still call themselves a Thomist in any meaningful sense.

If you hold to the Thomist nature-grace dualism, it means that the knowledge of God is knowledge "attained" with "many flaws" after a "long time" via "sensible objects". This is necessary because of where human nature fits in the scale of being. The supernatural end, the beatific vision, where the essence of God is perceived directly, necessitates (if you start with the Thomist view of nature) a greater participation in the very essence of God. Against this view, Bavinck calls this a "melting union" or a "mystical union".

In the "Credo Magazine" Volume 12, Issue 3 which was titled, "The Beatific Vision" an article appeared by Carl Mosser wherein he argued for retrieval of the medieval view of the beatific vision (he can be considered part of the Reformed Thomist side of the debate). Mosser admits that Reformed theologians of the past two centuries shunned the idea of deification or theosis (participation of the human in the life of God) as it seems to be a gross violation of the Creator-creature distinction. Humans will never partake in the being of God, they will forever remain creatures - their being is derived, and there is no scale according to which they can be lifted "closer" to God. These theologians would include Cornelius Van Til, Warfield, Hodge, Bavinck, and Kuyper. Mosser attempts to recruit Calvin himself as part of the voices in the Reformed Thomist camp, but this can only happen insofar Mosser doesn't appreciate Calvin's differences with Aquinas on nature, grace and sin which makes any such attempt purely impossible.

Bavinck writes regarding the beatific vision that...

... [every] vision of God, then, always requires an act of divine condescension, a revelation by which God on his part comes down to us and makes himself knowable . . . But regardless of how high and glorious Reformed theologians conceived the state of glory to be, human beings remained human even there, indeed raised above “their natural position” but never “above their own kind” and “that which is analogous to that.” Humanity’s blessedness indeed lies in the “beatific vision of God,” but this vision will always be such that finite and limited human nature is capable of it. A divinization, such as Rome teaches, indeed fits into the system of the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy but has no support in Scripture

Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2: 190-191

A caricature?

In an article titled, "God Himself in His Very Substance" on, Carl Mosser quotes the authors of "Aquinas among the Protestants" and writes that "Protestant theologians will often decry Thomas for his 'Nature/Grace Dualism.' But, as is mentioned in the introduction to their excellent book, Aquinas Among the Protestants, Manfred Svensson and David Van Drunen note how this is a mischaracterization. They acknowledge that 'this sort of critique has sometimes rested upon an accurate perception of the kind of Thomism that one could find in contemporary Roman Catholicism,' but 'as the thought of Aquinas himself has reemerged from the fruitful twentieth-century engagement with his work… interpreting Thomas [in this way] can only be regarded as a caricature." [30]

How can one can permit that the nature/grace dualism is an accurate perception of Thomism as found in Roman Catholicism, yet call it a caricature of Thomism where it is found outside of Roman Catholicism? Did Aquinas teach this nature grace dualism, or not? The evidence is obvious that he did, as we have shown, this is what undergirds Aquinas' natural theology. It informs his entire theology (anthropology, angelology, theology proper, eschatological beatitude etc.). How can you read Aquinas, call yourself a Thomist, and reject this (i.e. call yourself a Thomist and reject Aquinas)? That is the question that needs to be answered. Tipton seems to be right when he wrote that modern "Reformed Thomists" obscure rather than make clear these issues that are found in the works of Aquinas.

The Roman Catholic view of pure and mixed articles

Fesko, in the article we quoted at the beginning of this article writes that "One Van Tillian connects the medieval concept of pure and mixed articles to the natural theology that Van Til rejected." This particular Van Tillian is William Dennison. Fesko continues, "According to Dennison, Van Til embraced John Calvin’s theology rather than that of Aquinas. Aquinas supposedly tried to show the unbeliever that the Christian story accorded with logic and fact, whereas Calvin demonstrated that logic and fact only have meaning within the context of the story". [41]

We can see how the phrase, "... show the unbeliever that the Christian story accorded with logic and fact" presupposes the nature-grace dualism that we elaborated on before. Van Til, and very specifically Vos, rejected this Thomist conception of nature and grace.

It is therefore interesting that Fesko does not attempt to expand on these crucial differences between Aquinas and Vos. Rather, he assumes that Vos used those terms in the Thomist sense and that no other sense is possible. He writes that "In short, to admit mixed articles means that one employs some form of natural theology. If one rejects mixed articles, then he must rest all of his theological claims about God exclusively on Scripture" [42]. There is no debate here, however, the question is still open as to whether the nature-grace dualism of Roman Catholicism needs to be presupposed or not. Not Van Til, nor Vos would agree that we must "rest all of our theological claims about God exclusively on Scripture" (No Van Tillian is a biblicist - and it seems like many in the Thomist camp wants to reduce all non-Thomists to biblicists). Both (Van Til and Vos) had a robust view of nature and grace, and neither can be labelled a "biblicist" in the historic sense of the word (these days, the "biblicist" label is thrown around a lot and as such has lost its meaning). Both had a definite conception of natural theology.

The Roman Catholic view of pure and mixed articles, then, depends on their particular view of nature and grace. When the Roman Catholic speaks of mixed articles, they envision the creature operating autonomously in this world, reaching conclusions about God and reality using concepts that are lucid in and of themselves. Revelation can confirm these conclusions if they are proper, but revelation isn't needed in any way to reach them. Pure articles are then "above reason", but still in accord with it. These truths are "above nature" and too high for a natural reason to attain. Only in man's elevated state, when the beatific vision has been attained, will the reason be able to grasp them.

A Reformed view of nature and grace

The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to “facts” or “laws” whose nature and significance are already agreed upon by both parties to debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference point required to make the “facts” and “laws” intelligible. The question is as to what the “facts” and “laws” really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are? The answer to this question cannot be finally settled by any direct discussion of “facts.”

Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 62.

The deeper Protestant conception rejects both of those doctrinal conceptions [Pelgian nature and sacerdotal grace] in their distinction (as each is conceived simpliciter) and in their relation to one another (as together they form a nature-grace system).

Lane Tipton, The deeper Protestant conception of natural theology

Aquinas held that Adam in his state of innocence stood in need of a “donum superadditum”, that is divine grace, to lift his mind and will above his mere natural ends (as a creature) to contemplate and pursue God as his supernatural end. In their denial of Adam’s need for such grace, the Reformed were advancing something more than merely an alternative view of when and how grace was dispensed in redemptive history (although they were advancing that much as well). They were parting ways with a Greek metaphysic which views material reality as inherently inclined to non-being and error, in contrast to a divine, rational reality. They were parting ways with the Thomistic nature-grace dualism.

Because of their parting ways with the Romanist nature-grace dualism, the Reformed have a very different conception of nature and grace, and by extension, God. Although many similar theological and philosophical terms might be used when describing theological doctrines, the underlying differences that give the terms their meaning cannot indicate any sort of continuity between the Reformed and the Roman Catholic church. Van Til, writing on his very topic said that "Romanism should be regarded as a deformation of Christianity, in fact as its lowest deformation. And this deformation expresses itself not merely at some but at every point of doctrine. The differences between Protestantism and Romanism are not adequately indicated if we say that Luther restored to the church the true doctrines of the Bible, of justification by faith and of the priesthood of all believers. The difference is rather that Protestantism is more consistent and Rome is less consistently Christian at every point of doctrine. It could not well be otherwise. Having inconsistency at one point of doctrine is bound to result in inconsistency, at all points of doctrine, Rome has been consistently inconsistent in the confusion of non-Christian with Christian elements of teaching along the entire gamut of doctrinal expression." [29]

A Reformed view of nature

According to the Roman Catholic conception, there is a natural man who functions in the world, and that natural man adopts a religion that takes place beyond his nature. According to the Reformed conception, our entire nature should not be free from God at any point. The nature of man must be "worship" from beginning to end [40].

Rather than believing the original righteousness knowledge of God was "supernatural" to Adam, the Reformed held that it was "natural". "The important point of difference is," says Charles Hodge, "that Protestants hold that original righteousness, so far as it consisted in the moral excellence of Adam, was natural, while the Romanists maintain that it was supernatural." [43]

"The deeper Protestant conception affirms concreated natural knowledge of God and its corollary of concreated natural religious fellowship with God. Vos, therefore, penetrates to the heart of the contrast between medieval Roman Catholic and classical Reformed theologies of nature inherent in their respective doctrines of the image of God." [44]

The essence of the Reformed view of nature is that the finitude of nature does not in any way indicate a defect in nature insofar as it is not God. Rather, when God created, he called His creation "good", and mankind He called "very good". In addition to this, man's knowledge of God is as ultimate to him as man's knowledge of himself. It is natural for man to know God. When God created Adam, Adam immediately recognised the voice of God when the first commands came in the form of Special revelation regarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Nature, then, isn't an autonomous sphere where man can operate without divine guidance. Even before the fall, God still communicated with Adam to make Adam self-conscious of his place and task as a creature.

The key to understanding the Reformed view, is to understand that "God’s revelation in nature, together with God’s revelation in Scripture, form God’s one grand scheme of covenant revelation of himself to man. The two forms of revelation must therefore be seen as presupposing and supplementing one another. They are aspects of one general philosophy of history." [45] We will expand on this when expounding a Reformed natural theology.

There are no principles in nature that are completely lucid in and of themselves. All of them (e.g. laws of logic, gravitation, Planck's constant) are what they are because God is the Creator and sustainer. If you expect the sun to rise tomorrow, you do so not because you've observed it rise countless times in the past - you do so because God is faithful, and you expect God's faithfulness to continue in nature based on His promises in His Word (grounded in God's own unchanging nature). According to a Christian worldview, the God revealed in the Bible is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33) who created the natural world and exercises sovereign control over it (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 42:5; 45:12; 48:13). God knows that nature is uniform precisely because He is the author of nature and continually sustains it (Jer. 31:35–36) [47].

When Adam and Eve fell due to their disobedience, they did not merely lose "super-added grace", but they became "totally depraved" (Rom 3). Their intellect and will become rebellious and outright sinful (Eph. 4:17–18). They became suppressors of the truth and enemies of God. Man, in this "totally depraved" state will in principle throw everything into confusion his rebellion. He would self-destruct and embrace utter absurdities rather than repent and turn to God. For this sinner, there is no natural theology that forms a prolegomenon to revealed theology. Rather, revealed theology needs to renew this person unto the truth. This brings us to the Reformed view of grace:

But, the Thomist might object, did not Calvin himself write that "though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts"? (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.15) and that "Those men whom Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:14) calls ‘natural men’ were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things" (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.ii.15). Does this not mean that unbeliever do have knowledge despite their rebellion?

The answer is yes. Cornelius Van Til has received lots of flak for his claim that unbelievers cannot know anything, but the critics rarely understand that Van Til only claimed that unbelievers cannot know anything in principle. If God were to allow unbelievers to live out their non-Christian principles and beliefs to their full extent, only then, when their non-Christianity and total depravity come to full fruition, will the non-Christian implode everything unto utter absurdity and chaos. Non-Christianity isn't rational, there is no intellectual grounding for it. If you deny the God who made and sustains you (and your context), you destroy the possibility of knowledge as generally understood in principle. But, Calvin and Van Til also wrote extensively on "common grace": Even though men are "totally depraved", their depravity is restrained by God's common grace.

Where do the "excellent gifts" and "sharp and penetrating mind" come from according to Calvin? "But if the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths" (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.ii.16).

Dr Brant Bosserman provides a very concrete example of this principle and writes that "unbelievers are restrained by common grace from thinking and acting in perfect accordance with their false beliefs, and thus, from straightaway succumbing to the pure confusion and self-destruction of sin (Prov 8:36; Jer 2:13, 19; Matt 16:25)". He writes that the mastery of the aeronautical engineer over physical creation is "misrepresented" by him as "the product of chance, as opposed to a gift from God [and] he will be guilty of generating a false worldview, and indeed of aiding others on their way to damnation should they reciprocate his perspective." [48]

So, the non-Christian aeronautical engineer who lives in God's created world assumes that nature operates and will continue to operate in a certain way (which is contrary to their non-Christian worldview), and as such can be quite successful in all they attempt (e.g. Elon Musk isn't a Christian but is quite successful in launching rockets in impressive and awe-inspiring ways). However, insofar as the non-Christian engineer does not profess their dependence on God in their field of expertise, and give thanks to Him who make such wonderful things possible, their "knowledge" of these "inferior" things is fundamentally false in principle (but not in practice, as they aren't consistent with their professed non-Christian view of the world in practice).

A Reformed view of grace

Perhaps the best way to state the Reformed view of grace is not that it perfects nature, nor does it obliterate nature (as to replace it), but it restores or renews it. Renewal is the Biblical term when it comes to the relationship between nature and grace. put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV

...and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him

2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV

Grace is, therefore, not a mere second block that sits on top of the first block of nature. Since man by nature is utterly depraved, he needs to be renewed unto the knowledge of the truth.

We can ask ourselves what it means from a Thomist perspective for "lust" to be perfected. Or, "jealousy and strife" to be perfected. The Biblical picture is not for these sinful desires to be "perfected", but to be renewed unto life. At the heart of the gospel is the death of the old self, and the re-creation of a new self.

Nature as it currently stands is under the curse of God, and the wrath of God is revealed in it. Nature needs to be "recreated", that is why we look forward to the "new Earth" and the "new creation" when all things will be made anew.

A Reformed natural theology

[A] God's revelation in nature and Scripture

We now turn to consider a Reformed view of natural theology. Reformed Thomists have decried Van Til very denying "all forms of natural theology". Hopefully, by the end of this section, this charge can be put to rest once and for all.

We first note that in the article titled, "Nature and Scripture", Van Til affirms unequivocally that there exists a "Natural theology of the confession". The confession referred to is the Westminster Confession of Faith. Van Til then contrasts this view of natural theology with other views of natural theology that conflict with the confession (e.g. the Greek view). The Greek (Roman Catholic view) can for simplicity's sake be regarded as the view of natural theology outlined and critiqued above. Let us now turn to consider the natural theology of the confession as outlined by Van Til.

We first note that "according to Scripture itself, the same God who reveals himself in nature and in grace. The God who reveals himself in nature may therefore be described as “infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection, all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." It is, to be sure, from Scripture rather than from nature that this description of God is drawn. Yet it is this same God, to the extent that he is revealed at all, that is revealed in nature." [46].

God is eternal, absolute and incomprehensible. It follows that if we know God at all, it must be because God in condescension reveals Himself to us. There can be no knowledge of the Christian God that is not based on God's self-disclosure. If we can attain a knowledge of God independent of His self-disclosure, the god we would come to "know" would not be incomprehensible and absolute, and hence not the Christian God. Because it is the same God who reveals Himself in Scripture and in nature and this revelation is entirely voluntary on God's part, it follows that both natural and supernatural revelation form a single grand scheme of revelation that fits organically together. Together they form God's revelation to man. They presuppose and supplement each other. It would be an error to separate the two revelations in practice like many today do. There is no "book of nature" that stands on its own apart from Scripture. In the same way, Scripture cannot make sense apart from nature. Lane Tipton explains that the two modes of revelation (natural and supernatural) are (1) distinct, (2) inseparable, and (3) simultaneous. This interdependence is made clear by Geerharuds Vos in his Biblical Theology (pages 1-40). Van Til writes that "All too easily do we think of the covenant relation as quite distinct and independent of natural revelation. The two should be joined together" [49]. Again, we can distinguish, but we cannot separate.

According to the WCF 1.7, "the distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant". That Adam owes obedience unto God as Creator is involved in the fact that Adam is by nature created in a natural religious fellowship with God. However, God also provides Adam with special revelation which then incorporates the whole of natural revelation into a covenantal relationship with God...

Van Til calls natural revelation (now incorporated in the covenant) the "playground" for the process of differentiation that is to take place in time. Depending on Adam's choice to be obedient or disobedient, there would be an additional revelation of God in nature. We can already see this right after Adam sinned. After Adam broke the covenant with God, "[the] wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man" (Rom. 1). We read of and experience wars, diseases, weed, suffering etc. which were glaringly missing prior to the fall. Van Til then points to the story of Noah: When the wrath of God now made manifest in nature was about destroy the entirety of mankind and life in general, God made another covenant with Noah that that day and night, winter and summer, should continue to the end of time, and the rainbow becomes the sign of the covenant, and so God's grace becomes manifest in nature as well [56].

God, therefore, addresses man everywhere and always through the one body of his revelation. The idea that God’s revelation to man is clear must primarily be said about revelation as an organic whole, inclusive of both supernatural and natural revelation. The revelation of God in nature, as it is now, clearly manifests God. But only as a fragment of a whole. General revelation calls out for its supplement in supernatural revelation.

Now that we've laid out the sphere of revelation, we can discuss a view of natural theology that is distinctively Reformed. Ettenien Gilson, a great Romanist apologist, made a challenge to the Calvinistic idea of the natural knowledge of God and claimed that Calvin virtually holds the same position that the Roman Catholic holds. Remember, the Roman Catholic holds that natural reason can discover certain truths about God. So, if the Reformed wants to make a claim to the natural knowledge of God that experience attests to, how exactly does this differ from the Romanist system? Gilson is fair to press the Reformed to provide their own unique view of natural theology. It is not enough to merely diminish the value of Romanist natural theology or to place less emphasis on it.

[B] A Reformed natural theology

Van Til, Kuyper and Bavinck, following Calvin, insist again and again that we shall break with the natural theology of Rome. They insist that true natural theology is a frank interpretation of nature by means of the principle of interpretation that is taken from Scripture. The Christian must stand with both feet upon the bedrock of special revelation in his study of nature. This was the case prior to the fall as is seen in God's command with regard to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and it is so much more needed after the fall with the entrance of sin.

We quote at length from Bavinck's "The Wonderful Works of God":

The Christian, who sees everything in light of the Word of God, is anything but narrow in his view. He is generous in heart and mind. He looks over the whole earth and reckons it all his own, because he is Christ's and Christ is God's. He cannot let go of his belief that the revelation of God in Christ, to which he owes his life and salvation, has a special character. This belief does not exclude him from the world, but rather puts him in a position to trace out the revelation of God in nature and history, and puts the means at his disposal by which he can recognize the true and the good and the beautiful and separate them from the false and sinful alloys of men...
So it is that he makes a distinction between a general and a special revelation of God...
But, however essentually the two are distinguished, they are also intimately connected with each other. The general revelation is owing to the Word which was with God in the beginning, which made all things, which shone as light in the darkness...
General revelation, although derived from nature, is nevertheless taken up in Scripture, for, without it, we human beings, because of the darkenss of our understanding, would never have been able to read it out of nature. As it is, Scripture sheds a light on our path through the world, and puts into our hand a true reading of nature and history.

Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God, pg 21-22

Similarly, Geerhardus Vos also writes that whatever natural theology we might develop will first be dependent on Scripture [52]

The Reformed ought to squarely reject any conception of "common notions" that are thought to exist in a sphere of neutrality (i.e. nature) that are not religious. If we were to allow for epistemological common notions (how we know things) between Christians and non-Christians, we'll basically be back to the position of Rome. We can allow for "common notions" only if we restrict these common notions to the psychological. This becomes clear when Bavinck writes that "There is no atheistic world, there are no atheistic peoples, and there are no atheistic men" [53]. God's revelation presses upon man always and everywhere (outside him, as well as inside him as part of his mental activity). Thus, "Common notions" may be thought of as nothing more than God's revelation that comes to man through man. Man cannot escape this revelation. However, due to the fall, man reacts negatively to this revelation and attempts to suppress it. Van Til writes "no matter which button of the radio he [the sinner] presses, he always hears the voice of God. Even when he presses the button of his own psychological self-conscious activity, through which as a last resort the sinner might hope to hear another voice, he still hears the voice of God. “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Psalm 139:8) It is in this sense that we must, at least, to begin with, understand the matter when we are told that there are no atheistic peoples and no atheistic men. Psychologically there are no atheistic men; epistemologically every sinner is atheistic." [51]

So we reach a point where we reject "epistemological common notions" (the idea that Christians and non-Christians can correctly interpret nature together with or without a commitment to God), and we accept "psychological common notions" (the idea that God's revelation presses upon all men everywhere, and they a cannot escape this revelation).

We are now equipped to articulate what a Reformed natural theology looks like. Bavinck writes that "the history of mankind, when seen in the light of Scripture, exhibits a plan and pattern which point back to the governance of all things by a supreme being. It is true that this idea is confronted with by all sorts of objections and difficulties in the life both of individuals and nations. But it is all the more remarkable, therefore, that anyone who makes a serious study of history proceeds on the assumption that history is something in which thought and plan are evident, and makes it his task to discover these things and set them forth. History and the philosophy of history are based on faith in the providence of God" [53]

With the preceding paragraph, Bavinck provides a profound, some might say "Van Tillian" insight. The unbeliever, even though they would deny it and argue against it, still depend for all their study and insight on the providence of God. They are creatures living in God's world, and they cannot escape this fact. They, in all aspects of their being, depend on the very thing they vehemently wish were not the case.

It is for this reason that Van Til writes that the "traditional" apologetic arguments can be used with "absolute probative force". They don't merely dimly point towards the possible existence of God (which by implication allows for the non-existence of God as a possibility as well), they absolutely prove the Christian God beyond all doubt. Echoing Bavcink above, Van Til writes that "the proofs may be formulated either on a Christian or non-Christian basis. They are formulated on a Christian basis if, with Calvin, they rest clearly upon the ideas of creation and providence. They then appeal to what the natural man, because he is a creature of God, actually does know to be true. They are bound to find an immediate response of inward assent in the natural man. He cannot help but own to himself that God does exist."

What are these "proofs" that Van Til mentions? The most popular traditional arguments are the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument and the ontological argument.

These proofs are not proofs in the general sense that "proof" is usually taken (which moves someone from a point of ignorance to new knowledge based on more fundamental "commonly accepted" facts). They are not presented to unbelievers as if they, in their unbelief, have all the epistemological tools to evaluate them and accept/reject them based on their non-Christian (neutral towards Christ) view of the world. To claim that these proofs have no absolute probative force (as the Romanist does) is in line with the idea of seeking common notions in some (as Van Til amusingly wrote) "twilight zone" of semi-neutrality between believers and unbelievers.

The absolute probative force of the proofs is then found in the fact internally, or psychologically, all men are certain of God's existence via their sense of deity (as the natural revelation of God always gets through to all men), and this sense of deity has a mutual relationship with the revelation of God around man. The proofs are, therefore to be constructed "analogically" (that is, by man negating himself as ultimate, nature as self-sufficient and by acknowledging first that God is ultimate and self-sufficient). They then appeal to what the natural man, because he is a creature of God, actually does know to be true. They then find an immediate inward assent. He cannot help but own to himself that God does exist [54].

Thus Van Til says, "There are two ways of constructing a proof for the existence of God. These two ways are mutually exclusive. One is in accord with the basic construction of Reformed theology; the other is destructive of it. The one begins with the presupposition of the existence of the triune God of the Scriptures. The other begins with the presupposition of man as ultimate. The true theistic proofs undertake to show that the ideas of existence (ontological proof), of cause (cosmological proof), and purpose (teleological proof) are meaningless unless they presuppose the existence of God." [55]

"It is, therefore, the essence of Protestantism, and in particular of the Reformed theology to reject the “natural theology” of Rome. Kuyper and Bavinck have done so in no uncertain terms. And so has Hepp. And the whole genius of “Old Princeton” was against it"

Then comes the final, supreme insight from Van Til. Based on God's clear revelation of himself in and around men, they ought to know that God's being is a self-sufficient and self-contained being. They ought to see themselves as creatures. They ought to see themselves as under God's law. In contrast to the view of Rome, they cannot but see themselves as such. Yet they hold down this truth in their unrighteousness (Rom 1:18ff). They do this in many ways that reduce the distinction between the Creator and the creature and the result is always folly and ruin. The history of philosophy attests to this fact.

[You] either presuppose God and live, or presuppose yourself as ultimate and die. That is the alternative with which the Christian must challenge his fellow man.

Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, p. 191

It is in this (Reformed) context that the proofs become witnesses to God. They do not require a Romanist nature-grace dualism to operate. In this context, all the proofs really reduce to one single "proof". The proof is that unless God, the. God of the Bible, the Creator, the controller of the universe is presupposed as the foundation of human experience, this experience operates in a void. This one proof is absolutely convincing. The Reformed context destroys the nature-grace dualism, and outright rejects that man can function autonomously.

Using the cosmological argument analogically means that all men by nature know in their most inward being that nature is not something that could exist by itself. They ought to see that nothing can be said of nature unless it is said in relation to God's creation and providence. They ought to, therefore, see nature as God's creation. If we try to reason univocally using the cosmological argument, we cannot even make sense of "cause and effect" to offer an argument with any force.

Using the teleological argument analogically means that men ought to reason that the order of nature is due to the providence of God. Men ought to reason that natural laws cannot exist in themselves. They ought to reason that the conception of law could never have been applied by the mind of man to the phenomena of nature unless there were a God who is in himself absolute order or absolute system, and who has therefore implanted order upon his creation. If we try to use the teleological argument univocally, we'd run straight unto David Hume's problem of induction.

Using the ontological argument analogically means that "being" doesn't make sense unless we first apply it to God infinitely, and to ourselves derivatively as God's creatures. If we try to use the ontological argument univocally, God invariably becomes like "creatures", even if "more excellent" in the eyes of the creature.

Using the moral argument analogically means that God has written his law on our hearts and that all men everywhere assent to its requirements. If we try to use the moral argument univocally, whatever is "moral" is for each person to decide, and the argument can simply be dismissed.

In all cases, the reformed apologist uses specific aspects of creation and shows the non-Christian how they've been presuming on God's faithfulness, exchanging the truth for the lie, and worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. The point of contact with the unbeliever lies not in epistemological "neutral" and "common" notions but in the image of God.

[C] Colossians 2:8 & Proverbs 1:7

I have yet to hear a Thomist successfully respond to the above outline of natural theology in light of Colossians 2:8 and Proverbs 1:7.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:8, ESV

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7, ESV

Dr Richard Howe, a prominent Protestant theologian who regards himself as a Thomist, has correctly pointed out that some have misinterpreted Paul's text as a categorical rejection of philosophy altogether [57]. Paul does not reject all philosophy, but only a particular kind of philosophy: "according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world". He does not motivate us to reject the kind of philosophy that is "according to Christ". What does this mean? Paul is providing us with an all-encompassing contrast between two ways of doing philosophy. The non-Christian philosophy had Christ neither as its source, nor its substance, and as such is based on pure "neutral", "non-Christian" speculation and mere empty deceit. Thus, Van Til writes, "The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to "facts" or "laws" whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the "facts" and "laws" intelligible. The question is as to what the "facts" and "laws" really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes that they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are?" [58]

It is surprising that Howe, although he sees that Paul is not outright rejecting philosophy, fails to mention anything about the philosophy needing to be "according to Christ". Rather, he writes that "by [sound philosophy] I mean the classical realist tradition from Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) through Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)." This is not remotely following what Paul wrote in Colossians 2:8.

[D] Eve confronted in the garden

We need to reject "Eve's modus operandi". Contrary to the Romanist scheme, God's interpretation of the tree makes the tree what it is, and is absolutely authoritative. There is nothing in creation that owes its existence to something other than God (e.g. Chance). Everything is what it is because God has decreed it to be as such.

It should, therefore, be clear that if this is the view that Eve maintained, the true view of the tree could not ever have been discovered by listening to Satan and embracing neutrality. The answer is found by relating the facts of experience (i.e. the tree) to the system of knowledge that God has of creation and that which He has revealed of it. To know the tree truly is to know how the tree relates to God's plan for the tree. Satan was not the creator of the tree; he was not in a position to know what God knew about the tree; his interpretation was bound to be wrong to the extent that it differed from God’s interpretation. Therefore Eve should have said at once: "Get thee behind me, Satan!"

Therefore, the true answer is found in God's revelation of what the tree is, and since God is the determiner of possibility and impossibility as the Creator (and not a mere third person contained a reality of brute facts with Eve and Satan), Satan's interpretation of the tree is false by implication. It should have been dismissed from the start and he should have been strongly rebuked by Adam and Eve.

[E] Back to basics

To live a truly God-centered life, we must embrace a Reformed worldview that permeates every aspect of our existence. Unlike Aquinas, we cannot separate Christ's moral teachings and divine authority from his name. We must strive to raise our children in a God-fearing manner, and steward our resources wisely, avoiding support for companies and organizations that promote non-Christian values. It is our responsibility to call the world to repentance and appeal to the natural knowledge of God that is available to all individuals, by virtue of being created in His image. Above all, we must remain firmly rooted in the infallible truth of Scripture as our sole infallible guide to faith and practice. This is not just a matter of belief, but also of daily practice.

Our natural theology should, therefore, speak with the authority of Christ. His revelation is authoritative wherever it is found, and it is found everywhere. Our natural theology is not something that "can only be assented to by a select few after a long time and with much error". It has an absolute force and can drive real change in our societies.

In a world that's becoming increasingly complex, uncertain, and chaotic thanks in part to the rise of AI (artificial intelligence), social media, pornography, and the decline of the influence of the church. We should avoid creating rigid distinctions between nature and Scripture that may hinder our understanding of God's creation. There is no neutral place where we can meet those who hate God so as to bring them into the fold. Instead, we need to rely on the illuminating guidance of God's Word to help us interpret the natural world. Together, we can draw inspiration from the Psalmist and impart to our children the wisdom of Scripture.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word."

Psalm 119: 9-16, ESV

A Reformed view of pure and mixed articles

Geerhardus Vos utilized a Reformed perspective on pure and mixed articles that differs from the Thomistic sense. Although Fesko correctly suggests that those who reject mixed articles should solely rely on Scripture for theological claims about God, it does not imply that the nature-grace dualism of Roman Catholicism is necessary. Van Til, Vos, and Bavcink all rejected Thomistic mixed articles, while maintaining a Reformed view of them and as such cannot be labelled Biblicists.

Vos and Van Til both assert that the existence of God is evident in general revelation and Scripture, making it a mixed article. However, the Trinity is only explicitly revealed in Scripture, making it a pure article. Nonetheless, the Trinity is the foundation for the unity of creation, emphasizing the importance of pure articles in our understanding of mixed articles.

In the context of the garden, the tree. knowledge of good and evil would bring death is a pure article - it cannot be deduced from nature (the tree) alone. Yet, it is precisely this pure article that makes man self-conscious of his position before God and envelopes the whole of natural revelation into the covenant of works. As such, all other knowledge is immediately affected and informed by this pure article.

The Reformed view of mixed articles, then, acknowledges the suppression of truth by sinners, rejects the idea of epistemological common notions between Christians and non-Christians, and considers the organic entirety of revelation. There is no need for a Romanist nature-grace dualism.


It's widely known that some in the Reformed community are attempting to revive what they refer to as "Great Tradition" theology, and they're doing so with a noble purpose: to use the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas as a bulwark for the Church against the challenges of atheism and post-modernism. Aware of the fact that Aquinas was a "Rosary-toting, pope-embracing papist" whose works were placed alongside Scripture during the counter-reformation (that sought to undo the Reformation), these individuals need to grant their retrieval legitimacy lest they face a large backlash. As such, they are eagerly looking for instances where the Reformers used similar terms as Aquinas in their writings. By doing so, they hope to make the case that the Reformers also incorporated Aquinas' ideas into their own systems. This gives them the license to embrace Aquinas without any reservations, which could eventually lead them back to Rome due to Aquinas' nature-grace dualism (where grace elevates and perfects nature) upon which the entire Romanist sacramental system and doctrine of justification is built.

As we've seen, an example of this is J.V. Fesko's article titled, The Scholastic Epistemology of Geerhardus Vos. In this article, Fesko argues that because Geerhardus Vos used the distinction between pure and mixed articles (once in his Reformed Dogmatics), he accepted the same meaning that Thomas Aquinas attached to them. Fesko believes that the Reformed "received" the distinction between pure and mixed articles - which might be true - but what Fesko really wants to say is that they received it as is (that is, with the underlying philosophical system of Aquinas). But this is truly an incredible conclusion to try and stretch. Fesko also mentions Bavinck's use of the distinction between pure and mixed articles but doesn't mention what Berkouwer and Van Til saw, that Bavinck rejected the idea for which it usually stands (which is Aquinas' philosophical system).

In the same way, we can read Vos' Natural theology, and we can see how Vos wholeheartedly rejects the Romanist Nature-grace dualism that undergirds the Romanist use of pure and mixed articles. As such, Vos' use of the terms does not justify the unchecked consumption of Aquinas at all. There are more complex issues at stake, and those advocating for the Reformed retrieval of Aquinas should reconsider their amusement with Aquinas, and listen to the Reformed theologians of the previous century that did the work to warn them of the dangers of the Romanist system.

Although my influence is limited, let me add my voice to those who reject the Thomist system unequivocally. I pray that the "Thomist retrieval" will ultimately lose momentum and that God will continue to guide His Church in all matters related to the truth. While I deeply respect my Thomist brothers who remain within the Reformed fold, I fear that their efforts may lead us back to Rome. I implore them to consider the dangers of their pursuit with open eyes and to avoid any unintended consequences that may arise as a result.


[1] Leading among these theologians is Matthew Barret and the contributors at

[2] Tipton, Lane. "The Deeper Protestant Conception of Natural Theology"

[3] Cornelius Van Til, Who Do You Say That I Am? (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1975), 32–33.

[4] Tipton, Lane. "The Deeper Protestant Conception of Natural Theology"

[5] Vos, Geerhardus, Reformed Dogmatics 2, 11-13

[6] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955), 51.

[11] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 10."

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955), 34.

[15] Cornelius Van Til and Eric H. Sigward, The Articles of Cornelius Van Til, Electronic ed. (Labels Army Company: New York, 1997).

[16] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 45.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bosserman, B. A.. The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til. Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[19] Ibid.

[20] 2022. A Van Til Glossary. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 06 January 2022].

[21] Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge

[22] Berkouwer, De Algemeene Openbaring, Kampen, 1951, p. 48.

[23] Bosserman, B. A.. The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til (pp. 91-92). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955), 133."

[26] 2023. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 19 March 2023].

[27] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 42.

[28] Cornelius Van Til and Eric H. Sigward, The Articles of Cornelius Van Til, Electronic ed. (Labels Army Company: New York, 1997).

[29] Cornelius Van Til, DF 1st ed. Pg. 88. Title of section: Roman catholicism.

[30] Lance English. 2023. God Himself in His Very Substance - Credo Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 March 2023].

[40] Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:13

[41] The scholastic epistemology of Geerhardus Vos (2019) Reformed Faith & Practice. Available at: (Accessed: April 3, 2023).

[42] Ibid.

[43] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 41.

[44] Tipton, Lane. "The Deeper Protestant Conception of Natural Theology"

[45] Cornelius Van Til, Nature and Scripture

[46] Ibid.

[47] ILIAD Forum. 2023. James Anderson - What is the Problem of Induction, and Why are Christians Uniquely Situated to Answer it?. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2023].

[48] Bosserman, B. A.. The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til (p. 118). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[49] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Common Grace

[50] Van Til in his Common Grace attributes this quote to Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, 2, p. 30.

[51] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Common Grace

[52] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology pg. 19ff

[53] Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God, pg. 25

[54] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955), 196.

[55] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Common Grace, p. 190

[56] Ibid.

[57] Richard G. Howe. (2020) How theology needs philosophy, Ratio Christi. Ratio Christi South Africa. Available at: (Accessed: April 21, 2023).

[58] Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003), 62.

[59] Ibid. p. 11


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