Van Til’s Representational Principle

Cornelius Van Til, building on Geerhardus Vos, has a from-above approach to anthropology, beginning with the self-contained Triune God who formed and animated mankind, bestowing on them his image by creation, constituting a bond of natural religious fellowship, to the end that that they might glorify and enjoy him forever. In His providence, he entered into a covenant of works with them directed toward the consummation of creaturely joy in the receiving of the Triune God himself as their blessedness and reward. 

This defies a from-below approach that elevates, indeed deifies, the brute facts of a neutral creation, especially as perceived by the senses and evaluated by autonomous human reason. The discussion of the woman has been particularly harsh to the woman. In May of 2020, a teaching elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) wrote a series of articles  titled, “Feminism in the Reformed Churches,” in which he defined feminism as: 

“The ideology that disputes the following facts: (1) God made men stronger, and appointed them to public work, and to rule in family, church; (2) God made women weaker, and appointed them to domestic work, and to submit to the rule of men. A good one-word summary of these facts of nature, and of Scripture, is patriarchy, ‘father-rule.’”

His deduction can be found in Aristotle’s Politics.  Shortly after this article appeared, a teaching elder in the PCA wrote an article entitled, “Man and Woman: A Biblical System of Anthropology,” in which he argued that Pauline anthropology is a natural anthropology, based on the creation order of Genesis 2.  This author failed to distinguish the synchronic treatment of creation found in Genesis 1 from the diachronic approach of Genesis 2, in which the covenantal headship of Adam is brought into focus. In contrast to the Aristotelian anthropology of the OPC elder, the “Pauline natural theology” of the PCA elder concludes that special honor is due all men by all women on the grounds of creational order in Genesis 2. 

Reformed anthropology must be decisively unmoored from the brute fact of the woman, especially as she is considered in her “natural weakness,” and tethered to the self-attesting Scriptures that typico-symbolically reveal her as city-bride, city-mother, sister, daughter, and friend, indeed Christ’s eternal complement. This will be a radical reorientation of the discussion of the woman from what she is not, male, to what she is, his complement and a reflection of his glory. In order to do this there must be an epistemological shift in starting point from the creational to the providential, from evaluation of her as brute fact, to evaluating her from the perspective of covenant. She is not the federal head of humanity, but rather the typico-symbolic representation of the glorified communion of saints, the feminized end of redeemed humanity, anthropomorphically speaking, the object of his desire in an eternal embrace. She is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, Zion, his bride. As our city above, she is not only bride, but mother Zion, a walled city flowing with life, with mountains laden with spice, where he waits among the lilies to receive his saints. 

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