The Point of Contact: The Reformed Position

“But Reformed theology, as worked out by Calvin and his recent exponents such as Hodge, Warfield, Kuyper and Bavinck, holds that man’s mind is derivative. As such it is naturally in contact with God’s revelation. It is surrounded by nothing but revelation. It is itself inherently revelational. It cannot naturally be conscious of itself without being conscious of its creatureliness. For man self-consciousness presupposes God-consciousness. Calvin speaks of this as man’s inescapable sense of deity.

For Adam in paradise God-consciousness could not come in at the end of a syllogistic process of reasoning. God-consciousness was for him the presupposition of the significance of his reasoning on anything.

To the doctrine of creation must be added the conception of the covenant. Man was created as a historical being. God placed upon him from the outset of history the responsibility and task of reinterpreting the counsel of God as expressed in creation to himself individually and collectively. Man’s creature-consciousness may therefore be more particularly signalized as covenant-consciousness. But the revelation of the covenant to man in paradise was supernaturally mediated. This was naturally the case inasmuch as it pertained to man’s historical task. Thus, the sense of obedience or disobedience was immediately involved in Adam’s consciousness of himself. Covenant consciousness envelops creature-consciousness. In paradise Adam knew that as a creature of God it was natural and proper that he should keep the covenant that God had made with him. In this way it appears that man’s proper self-consciousness depended, even in paradise, upon his being in contact with both supernatural and natural revelation. God’s natural revelation was within man as well as about him. Man’s very constitution as a rational and moral being is itself revelational to man as the ethically responsible reactor to revelation. And natural revelation is itself incomplete. It needed from the outset to be supplemented with supernatural about man’s future. Thus the very idea of supernatural revelation is correlatively embodied in the idea of man’s proper self-consciousness.

It is in this way that man may be said to be by his original constitution in contact with the truth while yet not in possession of all the truth…Man had originally not merely a capacity for receiving the truth; he was in actual possession of the truth. The world of truth was not found in some realm far distant from him; it was right before him. That which spoke to his senses no less than that which spoke to his intellect was the voice of God. Even when he closed his eyes upon the external world his internal sense would manifest God to him in his own constitution…

Man could not be aware of himself without also being aware of objects about him and without also being aware of his responsibility to manage himself and all things for the glory of God. Man’s consciousness of objects and of self was not static. It was consciousness in time. Moreoever, consciousness of objects and of self in time meant consciousness of history in relationship to the plan of God back of history. Man’s first sense of self-awareness implied the awareness of the presence of God as the one for whom he had a great task to accomplish.”

(Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 90-93)

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