Organic Teleology

The question of teleology must now engage our attention. In it we deal more specifically with the Christian philosophy of history. Christianity presupposes the self- sufficient God of the Scriptures. It is within the ontological Trinity that we find a self- sufficient purpose. When God created the universe he created it for and unto himself. By his providence God sustains the universe in order to realize his ultimate purpose with it.

It follows from this that there is purpose within the universe because the triune God has a purpose for the universe. Every purpose within the universe must, in the last analysis, be referred to God. Without this reference to God, no purpose within the universe has meaning.

It follows also that every fact within the universe has a purpose, or function to fulfill. Even that which we think of as mechanical has a purpose. Mechanical laws are, from the ultimate point of view, completely teleological.

It follows still further that the universe is organically teleological. This is true in a twofold sense. In the first place the “mechanical” is subordinate to that which is self- consciously teleological. Man was created prophet, priest and king over the universe. This places a connection between the vicissitudes of man and the universe. In the second place the events of earlier history are preparatory to the events of later history. There is an increasing purpose through history. God is gradually reaching a climax with history. Every event leads up to that climax and contributes to it. That is the Christian notion of progress. The universe is successful; the Christian is an optimist; he alone can be an optimist. The universe is Christologically teleological.

If we think more particularly of man in this teleological scheme, we have the following. Man’s thoughts and acts have meaning and fulfill a purpose, just because of God’s purpose with all things. Man thinks analogically and acts analogically. He does whatever he does “to the glory of God.” When he manipulates his immediate “impersonal” environment he is conscious of the ultimate environment which is personal. In all this he thinks God’s thoughts after him and does God’s works for him. Thus he is genuinely free. He is free because he is determinate. He is finitely determinate because God is absolutely determinate.

Special mention should be made here of the fact that the question of evil or sin does not in an ultimate sense change the conception of teleology advanced. Evil did not come into the universe as a surprise to God. It is subject to his counsel. God accomplishes his ultimate purpose with the universe in spite of and even by means of sin and evil. Sin is a wilful transgression of the revealed will of God, but not a breaking of the counsel of God.

(Van Til, Christian Theistic Evidences)

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