Reformation Month: Day 25

31 Days, 31 Books

Henry was “the other Van Til.”  Like his kinsman-uncle Cornelius, Henry was a faithful Christian, a thinker, and a teacher.  He was, until his death at age 55, a professor of Bible at Calvin College.  He attended Westminster Theological Seminary, where he famous uncle taught, and also studied at the Free University of Amsterdam, which was the key place where Reformed people sought higher learning.

Professor Henry Van Til.

He is remembered for one book:  The Calvinist Concept of Culture.  This is a key book in the area of developing a Christian worldview.  But it is not a mere Christian survey of different areas of life with Bible verses attached.  This is a heavy-weight foundational study.  A large part of the book entails a study of key Christian thinkers whose theological vision and Biblical vision was culture impacting and culture changing.  The four Christian thinkers were Augustine, John Calvin,  Abraham Kuyper, and Klaus Schilder.

It should be no surprise that the two more recent thinkers were Dutch.  Van Til knew that the country of his heritage had changed the world through producing a long line of Christian theologians, philosophers, social critics, political thinkers, and culture changers.  From Kuyper and Schilder, one can quickly go to such names as Bavinck, Dooyeweerd, Van Reissen, and Rookmaaker.

There have been great works of theology produced by the Reformers and their heirs.  There have been many works directing Christians toward lives of piety and godliness by the same group.  But there have been, and continues to be, great Christian works that still press the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life and culture.

Henry Van Til is best remembered for a great phrase:  “Culture is religion externalized.”  This book is a 245 page exposition of that statement. Van Til’s obituary stated this about his life and beliefs:  “Christ crucified and risen, King in every relationship of life, was the burden of his preaching, teaching and writing.”

Great quotes from The Calvinistic Concept of Culture:

“Scripture is not only the authoritative guide for the way of salvation, but it furnishes man with an authoritative interpretation of reality as a whole.”
“The Christian is in the world, but not to be of it. This constitutes the basis of the perennial problem involved in the discussion of Christian culture. Because believers are not of the world, there have been many Christians who have taken a negative attitude toward culture.”
“Culture derives its meaning from man’s faith in God; it is never an end in itself, but always a means of expressing one’s religious faith.”
“The family is the simplest and smallest unit of society and the real fountain of culture. If this fountain remains pure, man’s culture has promise. But if it becomes polluted, all the rest will turn to dust and ashes, since the home is the foundation of the entire social structure.”
“One cannot keep on evangelizing the world without interfering with the world’s culture. It devolves upon God’s people, therefore, to contend for such a society which will give the maximum opportunity for us to live wholly Christian lives and the maximum opportunity for others to become Christians.”
“The primary principle of the Calvinistic system of thought is the direct and absolute sovereignty of God over all things. Such sovereignty is not one among the many attributes of God, but it comes to expression in all of His attributes.”
The call for Christian cultural application goes on.  My friend P. Andrew Sandlin recently wrote a short introduction to the topic in a really good, but little known, book titled Christian Culture: An Introduction.

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