The Sufficiency of Natural Revelation

“Proceeding now to speak of the sufficiency of natural revelation as corresponding to the sufficiency of Scripture, we recall that revelation in nature was never meant to function by itself. It was from the beginning insufficient without its supernatural concomitant. It was inherently a limiting notion. It was but the presupposition of historical action on the part of man as covenant personality with respect to supernaturally conveyed communication. But for that specific purpose it was wholly sufficient. It was historically sufficient. After the fall of man natural revelation is still historically sufficient. It is sufficient for such as have in Adam brought the curse of God upon nature. It is sufficient to render them without excuse. Those who are in prison and cannot clearly see the light of the sun receive their due inasmuch as they have first abused that light. If nature groans in pain and travail because of man’s abuse of it, this very fact—that is, the very curse of God on nature—should be instrumental anew in making men accuse or excuse themselves. Nature as it were yearns to be released from its imprisonment in order once more to be united to her Lord in fruitful union. When nature is abused by man it cries out to her creator for vengeance and through it for redemption. It was in the mother promise that God gave the answer to nature’s cry (Gn 3:15). In this promise there was a two-fold aspect. There was first the aspect of vengeance. He that should come was to bruise the head of the serpent, the one that led man in setting up nature as independent of the supernatural revelation of God. Thus nature was once more to be given the opportunity of serving as the proper field of exercise for the direct supernatural communication of God to man. But this time this service came at a more advanced point in history. Nature was now the bearer of God’s curse as well as of his general mercy. The “good,” that is, the believers, are, generally, hedged about by God. Yet they must not expect that always and in every respect this will be the case. They must learn to say with Job, be it after much trial, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Jb 13:15). The “evil,” that is, the unbelievers, will generally be rewarded with the natural consequences of their deeds. But this too is not always and without qualification the case. The wicked sometimes prosper. Nature only shows tendencies. And tendencies point forward to the time when tendencies shall have become the rules without exception. The tendency itself is meaningless without the certainty of the climax. The present regularity of nature is therefore once again to be looked upon as a limiting notion. At every stage in history God’s revelation in nature is sufficient for the purpose it was meant to serve, that of being the playground for the process of differentiation between those who would and those who would not serve God.”

(Van Til, Nature and Scripture)

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One thought on “The Sufficiency of Natural Revelation

  1. Eric Stampher

    Van Til here does not here allude to the notion that nature, like Scripture, carries sufficient propositional or relational content (even by inference) to be a vehicle through which God gives faith. The reformers early on nixed the idea that nature could, without Scripture, be used by God to deliver saving faith. They insisted that nature carried only enough content to leave one culpable if they ignored it’s message. But it’s content was insufficient to be used as a means to obtain saving faith.

    Anyway, Van Til does not here mention these ideas, does he?

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