Common Grace and the Gospel (and H.Hoeksema) – C.Van Til

CommonGrace&Gospel-CVanTilDid you know that P&R Publishing recently republished Cornelius Van Til’s book Common Grace and the Gospel? First published in 1972, this second edition contains the full text of the first edition but with added foreword and annotations by K.Scott Oliphint. This too is a “new” title in the PRC Seminary library (We also have the first edition – and with good reason – keep reading!).

Van Tils’ book is a significant work on common grace and was widely recognized as such when it was first published. And we suspect that with the recent rise in interest in the doctrine because of the renewed interest in Abraham Kuyper (especially by the neo-Calvinists and “new Calvinists” – the “young, restless, and Reformed” crowd), the publisher saw the need for this new edition. And we may guess that it will have a wide reception.

If you are unfamiliar with the author, you will find this information about him on the P&R website:

Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987) was born in Grootegast, the Netherlands, and immigrated with his family to America in 1905. He attended Calvin College and Calvin Seminary before completing his studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University with the ThM and PhD degrees. Drawn to the pastorate, Van Til spent one year in the ministry before taking a leave of absence to teach apologetics at Princeton Seminary. When the seminary reorganized, he was persuaded to join the faculty of the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He remained there as professor of apologetics until his retirement in 1975. Van Til wrote more than twenty books, in addition to more than thirty syllabi. Among his best-known titles are The Defense of the Faith, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, and An Introduction to Systematic Theology.

In this work Van Til does indeed interact with A.Kuyper’s view of common grace as set forth in his De Gemeene Gratie (3 vols, 1902 – a work now being translated and published in English for the first time.). But, of special interest to our PRC readers, Van Til also interacts with Herman Hoeksema and the PRC. In fact, in the initial chapter on Kuyper’s view of common grace, Van Til brings up the Three Points of Common Grace adopted in 1924 by the Christian Reformed Church and mentions Hoeksema’s opposition to this Kuyperian form of the doctrine:

Kuyper’s statement of the doctrine of common grace has not gone unchallenged. In a number of pamphlets and books, as well as in a monthly magazine, The Standard Bearer, the Rev. Herman Hoeksema, the Rev. Henry Danhof and others have vigorously denied the existence of any form of common grace.

Hoeksema and Danhof argue that it is inconceivable that God should be in any sense, and at any point, graciously inclined to those who are not His elect. The wicked do, to be sure, receive gifts from God. But rain and sunshine are not, as such, evidences of God’s favor (p.25).

And Van Til continues to treat Hoeksema’s views on this doctrine throughout the book (a quick glance at the index will tell you he does so in over twenty places).

But Van Til also has a special chapter (8) on Hoeksema and his Reformed Dogmatics, which makes for good reading. While acknowledging the power of Hoeksema’s preaching and agreeing with some of his theology, Van Til is critical of “HH’s” defense of particular grace over against common grace. This is how chapter 8 ends:

There is, of course, much else in Hoeksema’s work that could be discussed with profit. There is, indeed, much very valuable material in his work. We have, however, used our space to deal with what was most important to him.

With all our great admiration for Hoeksema as a preacher and as a teacher of theology, we must, nonetheless, maintain that however true he was to the idea of the sovereignty of the grace of God, he did not advance its proper form of expression in his works on theology (p.252).

As you can see, you would do well to read Van Til on this significant doctrine, especially as he deals with Kuyper and Hoeksema. And now, you have a new edition with which to do that.

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