Permit me to continue my quotation from “The Gospel,” to demonstrate how little ground Van Til has for his indictment that I really make God the subject of man’s obedience or disobedience:
“What then is the fallacy of Heyns’ reasoning? When, on our part, we deny the doctrine of the two wills, we deny the theory that God can will two exact opposites in the same sense and with respect to the same objects. This is what Heyns teaches. He claims:
1. God wills that all men shall be saved. 2. God does not will that all men shall be saved. These two propositions in that form represent nonsense pure and simple. I even claim that no one can accept both propositions. There is no faith that can embrace them. I do not hesitate to assert that Heyns himself does not believe them. As soon as he declares that he believes the first proposition, he thereby already asserted that he does not believe the second proposition. However, in order to make these two contradictory propositions somewhat acceptable, Heyns explained the first will of God, according to which He wills that all men shall be saved as a longing or desire on the part of God, the second as decree. God desires that, all men shall be saved, but in view of the fact that something interfered from without to frustrate this desire, God decreed to save the elect only. And thus Heyns destroys God’s decree! Heyns’ God is not God! But what does he do? He argues: if you deny the two wills in God, you must also deny the validity of God’s commandments. And what is his error? This, that intentionally or unintentionally, he overlooks the difference between God’s will of decree and His ethical will. The argument Heyns ascribes to us runs as follows: 1. God wills (according to His decree) that someone commits murder. 2. God therefore wills (ethically) murder. 3. God cannot be serious about the sixth commandment. Now, we never taught anything like this. Such a thing could never arise in the mind of any Reformed man. Nor is this logic, it is sophistry. The error is that Heyns’ tries to introduce his dualistic presentation of the will of God into our argumentation, and then ascribes his erroneous conclusion to us.
But we do not argue this. Our argumentation runs as follows:
1. God willed eternally, sovereignly the coming and occurrence of that which He hates (the sinner and sin); and that, too, in order that His righteousness and holiness might become manifest as hatred of sin. God’s counsel is not dualistic, but antithetical. Even as God therefore knew His own eternally in love, so He eternally knew and knows with a sovereign hate of His good pleasure the reprobates. In His counsel the elect are known, ordained, called, justified and glorified. In His counsel the reprobates are rejected, fallen, lost, cast into outer darkness. What occurs in time, God has eternally before Himself and with Himself. Eternally He loves Jacob, eternally He hates Esau. God therefore, hates the ungodly and their works eternally! For, and this it is that Heyns constantly forgets: God is GOD!
2. When, therefore, the ungodly, in committing sin, executes God’s decree, then he performs, as rational moral creature, willingly and consciously, that which God hates. (Van Til ought to pay special attention to this, that he may revise his opinion, and correct his error. Here, to be sure, the ungodly is presented as being the responsible subject of his own actions, not God). That he executes the decree of God, does not alter the fact, that in the execution of that decree he does what is in conflict with the will of God, and that which He hates, so that he becomes the object of God’s avenging justice. Thus the Scriptures teach us. When the ungodly Jews crucify Jesus, they fulfill God’s counsel, yet do what He hates. Thus Pharaoh was ordained, “raised up” to say “No” to God. And as he stands there in Egypt, so he stands eternally in the counsel of God, and that, too, in order that God might show his power in him. And even as God hates him as he stands in all his ungodly rebellion in Egypt, so does God hate him eternally with the sovereign hatred of His good (pleasure in His counsel.
- When the ungodly fulfills God’s counsel in time, doing that which He hates, God maintains Himself over against him, and shows him that He hates him because of His ungodly works, even as He hated him eternally in His counsel, and therefore He persists in His demand of that ungodly man: Thou shalt love Me and keep my commandments.’ And this demand of the law of God, in which God maintains Himself as the eternal Good, the ungodly also faces as he appears in God’s eternal counsel. And this demand he also confronts in time. Indeed, it all is firmly established in the sovereign good pleasure of God, Who is GOD indeed!”
Van Til will have to admit that the above presentation is quite contrary to what he attributes to us as our view, and that we do not present God as the real subject of man’s actions. It is true that in the above quotation we do not speak of obedience, but of disobedience. Principally, however, this makes no difference. And, besides, there is in the same booklet of ours on “The Gospel” a paragraph setting forth our view of the relation between God and man’s obedience, which we will quote the next time, D.V.