Three Types of Consciousness

“It may be useful in this connection to point out that in the whole situation we have therefore to deal with three types of consciousness.

In the first place there is the Adamic consciousness. When man was first created he was perfect. He recognized the fact that he was a creature; he was actually normal. He wanted to be nothing but a re-interpreter of the interpretation of God. He was receptive to God’s revelation which appeared within him and round about him; he would reconstruct this revelation. He was receptively reconstructive. For that reason he had real though not comprehensive unity in his experience.

In the second place we deal with the fallen or non-regenerate consciousness. It builds upon the non-theistic assumption. It in effect denies its creaturehood. It claims to be normal. It will not be receptive to God’s interpretation; it wants to create its own interpretation without reference to God. It will not reconstruct God’s interpretation. It will construct only its own interpretation. It seeks to be creatively constructive. It thus tries to do the impossible with the result that self-frustration is written over all its efforts. There is no unity and never will be unity in non-theistic thought; it has cut itself loose from the only existing source of unity. Yet since it could not cut itself loose from God metaphysically and since God, for the purpose of realizing his plan of redemption, rudera or scintillae of the knowledge of God and one the universe remain in him. Non-Christians know after a fashion, as Paul tells us in Romans. Thus also there is a relative good in those who are ethically totally evil. The unity that they have in experience is a shadow unity, a unity that prevents them from falling into complete disintegration in this world. Hereafter complete disintegration will follow, though even hereafter the disintegration can only be ethical and not metaphysical; there must be a kingdom or mock-unity even in hell.

In the third place there is the regenerate consciousness. This regenerate consciousness has in principle been restored to the position of the Adamic consciousness. It recognizes anew that man is God’s creature and that he has fallen into sin. It recognizes the fact that it has been saved by grace. It therefore wants to be receptively reconstructive once more. It wants to interpret reality in terms of the eternal one and many. It therefore does have unity in its experience, though not comprehensive unity.

Yet this regenerate consciousness is restored in principle only. It does not and cannot, because of the remnants of sin that remain in man, even after regeneration, live up to its own principle fully. For this reason there is the relatively evil in those who are absolutely good in principle. This relative evil in the absolutely good has a very great detrimental effect on the consistency of presentation of the theistic position on the part of the Christian. And this inconsistency appears both in word and in deed, in the compromising presentation of the intellectual argument for Christianity and in the un-Christian life that Christians live. Hence non-Christians frequently do not have the full Christian position placed before them.

All this makes the matter of apologetical argument very complicated. Only a clear recognition of the three types of consciousness, of the total inability of the non-regenerate consciousness of itself to accept the truth of Christianity, of the necessity of a consistent presentation of the Christian position together with firm reliance on the grace of God, can help us to reason fruitfully with men.”

(Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 48-50)


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