The true conception of the “moment’’ against the background of the counsel of God, makes it possible to give real meaning to history, according to Van Til. For, according to this view, it is God’s meaning that is in all things. They do not receive their meaning from man, for “God’s idea of Himself is in re”, and when man deals with “the phenomenal world” he deals with God. p. 8.

On this basis we can explain and maintain the reality of the “positive and negative instance”, good and evil, and especially moral good and moral evil. They are historically real and have meaning, exactly because they are viewed on the background of God’s eternal counsel, and because God controls all things. “It is because the reprobate is reprobated that his sin must be given and can be given as the reason for his lost estate. It is because the elect are elected that salvation is by faith alone. It is because of the ultimately ‘unconditional’ in God that the ‘conditional’ of history has meaning.” p. 10. In the light of God’s sovereign counsel we can also maintain the true correlativeness between the “positive and negative instance”, between good and evil. For God has freely determined that the evil should serve to bring out the good by contrast. “The probationary command in paradise was based on this principle. Those who were elected to eternal life, whose destiny was in God’s plan fully determined upon as being in the direction of the good, were yet threatened with eternal misery. Their moral act as a conditional act required the inclusion of this ‘threat’. On the other hand those who were not elected to eternal life, whose destiny was in God’s plan fully determined upon as being in the direction of evil, were yet placed before the conditional promise of eternal life. Their act of disobedience, to be real disobedience, required their confrontation with moral glory as the reward of moral virtue. The ‘threat’ of eternal punishment to the elect and the “promise of eternal life to the non-elect stand on the same epistemological level.” p. 10.

On this attitude of God and His dealing with “the elect” and “the reprobate” in Adam, Van Til has more to say in a later connection. Before we call attention to this, however, it is necessary to take cognizance of the distinction he introduces into the “Moment”. We will quote him literally. In order to understand his meaning the reader may take for granted that by “moment” Vain Til means all the events of history from the beginning to the consummation. He writes:

“But we have yet to reach the climax of our difficulties with respect to the possible significance of the Moment (history, H. H.). The Moment (history, H.H.) is really a series of Moments (related histories? H.H.). The Moment must be subdivided into Moment A and Moment B. Hence the Christian correlativity-idea (the idea that good and evil are so related, according to God’s counsel, that evil, by contrast, serves to bring out the good, (H.H.) must be carried into this Moment-by-Moment relationship. Indeed, the correlativity-idea itself would be incomplete without this Moment-by-Moment relationship. And without the completion of the correlativity-idea the Moment (history, H.H.) would have no significance. Moment A without Moment B (history in the state of original righteousness in paradise, and history under sin and grace? H.H.) is incomplete. The general Moment (history, H.H.) includes both. The question then is as to the Moment by Moment relationship (i.e., the relationship between Adam, the probationary command, the fall, on the one hand; Christ, election and reprobation, salvation and damnation, on the other hand? H.H.) And on this point there are, as is to be expected, only two answers,. The Christian answer is based on the presupposition of the Christian necessity concept God has determined by his free counsel on the eternal destiny both in malum (malam, of course, H.H.) and in bonam partem of all his moral creatures, (i.e. predestination unto eternal evil and eternal good, (H.H.). Apparently without differentiation he places all these moral creatures before the probationary command. We say apparently without differentiation because it was not really without differentiation. More Moments (one could almost use the term “dispensations” here, H.H.) were to follow the probationary Moment (history, dispensation, H.H.). In particular one Moment, the Moment of the redemptive and reprobationary (is this a correct term? H.H.) work of Christ was to follow the probationary Moment. And the later Moment was to be related to the earlier Moment. Both were means to the final end as planned by God. Both Moments operate against the background of the basic universal of the counsel of God. They have significance in relationship to one another because of this general background of the counsel of God. Without this general background they would be utterly isolated and therefore have no meaning. The moral differential of the probationary command required the later Moment, a later Moment also operative before the counsel of God. Believers have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. The good works of believers were predestined from before the Moment (history, H.H.) as such, and require not one but two important Moments for their realization. They are good works based on the historical rejection as well as on the historical acceptance of sin. The first Moment speaks of the historical acceptance; the second Moment of the historical rejection of evil. The one is incomplete without the other. In order to clarify the nature of the connecting link between Moment A and Moment B as subsidiary to the Moment in general we must proceed to one more step of subdivision. Moment a, and Moment b, are representative of the ordinary moments (here the term has a new meaning, it seems to me, H.H.) of daily human experience. Just as we subdivide the Moment that is history as such, (here Van Til identifies the Moment with history, H.H.) into Moment A and Moment B, so now we must subdivide Moment A and Moment B into moments a, b, c, . . . . of ordinary human experience. If we are to deal with the ‘universal’ or law of history we need all these distinctions,” pp. 11, 12.

As I have stated before, all this is not exactly lucid, the difficulty being that Van Til’s contents or denotation of the term “Moment” appears to be rather changeable. But the general purpose of this part of his reasoning is to show the meaning of the Christian correlativity-idea. He himself states this as follows: “The individual (Adam, Christ, H.H.) can influence the nature of the universal (the human nature, H.H.) and the universal (the human nature, H.H.) can influence the nature of the individual (all men, the elect, the reprobate, H.H.).

The significance of all this for “common grace” as conceived by Van Til becomes evident when he applies this philosophy to God’s counsel in relation to actual history as revealed to us in the Scriptures: to Adam in the state of righteousness, the probationary command, all men in their relation in Adam, and in him to God’s command, God’s attitude to Adam, and to all men in him, before the fall and after the fall, Christ and redemption in Him, election and reprobation, the general “offer” of salvation, and God’s favorable attitude to all men. For it is to these that Van Til applies his basic principles of the philosophy of history as laid down in the first part of his work. One would expect that, having started from a broad basis, and having recognized the fact that the question of “common grace” really concerns the problem of history in relation to God in all its implications, Van Til would also build a broad superstructure, and be concerned with the problem of common grace in its comprehensive aspect. However, this is not the case. When he applies his principles of (the philosophy of history developed in the first part of his book to the question of “common grace”, he after all concerns himself only with the narrow question whether there is a common attitude of God to the elect and reprobate in this world, the question of “the three points”. And he argues that before the fall all men, elect and reprobate, in Adam were the objects of a common favor of God; that after the fall all men became the object of a common wrath, even so that God “hated all men”, elect and reprobate; and that, therefore, there must be a certain “commonness” in God’s attitude of favor to elect and reprobate to the end of time.

We are not now criticizing his view. We are trying to show how Van Til applies his philosophy of the “Moment” to the question of common grace. As far as I can see, he does not place himself before the question of the value and significance of “the Moment” with respect to the final fruit and consummation of all things. He deals especially with Adam and all men in him. Let me quote a few more passages in this connection.

“The Christian idea of correlativity in the Moment finds concrete historical expression in the idea of representation. It was because of the true correlativity in the Moment that Adam could represent the whole human race. He, as an individual, could change the nature of the universal called human nature. This human nature was created good. Yet as such it was amendable to change by the action of the individual. It was not that abstract eternally unchangeable something which, on the principles of Parmenides, it should be. If it had been such, no historical action of any individual could have modified it. Man was perfect, but yet able to sin when first he came from the hand of God. On the other hand human nature was not amendable to change by the action of every individual. If it had been it would have been no universal at all, and would therefore have had no influence on individuals. . . Scripture speaks of Adam, the first historical individual, who could change the universal of human nature in such a decisive manner that all later historical individuals were born with an evil character for which they are yet held immediately responsible. All historical individuals who came after Adam are guilty as well as polluted before God. . . . This representative action would be impossible on any basis but that of correlativity between the historical universal and the historical particular as based on the counsel of God back of history. There was a true universality into which the first individual was born and this true universality was amendable to change by the first individual because he was the representative individual.” p. 13.


“It is only on a Christian basis then that progress is possible. The action of the second Adam was meant, in the counsel of God, to follow the action of the first Adam. There was first a good human nature. Then through the action of the first Adam this good human nature became a sinful human nature; Through the act of the second Adam this became, in the case of the elect a redeemed human nature. . . . No ordinary historical individual, a, b, c, could change the human nature made sinful by the first representative individual. . . .If the Moment as such was to have significance, Moment B, in which the divine representative Individual changed sinful human nature, had to follow Moment A, in which (the human representative changed the original good human nature.” p. 14.

On p. 62:

. . . .“When history is finished God no longer has any kind of favor toward the reprobate. They still exist and God has pleasure in their existence, but not in the fact of their bare existence. God has pleasure in their historically defeated existence. . . .Therefore God no longer in any sense classifies him in a generality with the elect. It was only at an earlier date before the consummation of their wicked striving was made complete that God even in a sense classified him with the elect. . . .When God first spoke to Adam he did so as the representative of all men. . . .When he fell all men became sinners; they became in Adam the objects of God’s wrath. . . .It was by the same negative act to the same ‘offer’ that all men lost the favor of God and became the objects of the ‘common’ wrath of God. . . .The elect of God are always the objects of favor in the ultimate sense. . . .Then the elect became sinners in Adam and as sinners the object of God’s wrath. . . .Thus the elect, together with the reprobate are objects of God’s wrath.”

Again and again Van Til refers to the “commonness” between the elect and the reprobate that existed in paradise. According to him, both the elect and reprobate performed good action in Adam up to a certain point. “There was not only (a) commonness of mere existence. There was (b) commonness of official capacity. There was (e) commonness of good action in official capacity. Thus there was genuine commonness in good up to a certain point between believers and non-believers. There was a genuine commonness in evil up to a point after the fall. There is no reason why there should not be genuine commonness up to a point throughout the course of history as long as the consummation of wickedness has not been reached.” p. 64.

One more quotation: “We need not hesitate to affirm then that in the beginning God loved mankind in general. That was before mankind had sinned against God. A little later God hated mankind in general. . . . So the elect and reprobate are under a common wrath.” p. 95.

This may be considered to give a fair idea of the way Van Til applies his conception of the Moment and correlativity in the Moment to the problem of common grace. Next time, the Lord willing, we will offer our criticism on this point.