RSVP to Noah

Some Swiftian satire from Cornelius Van Til.

Dear Mr. Noah,

We sympathize with you in your benighted estate. As a fundamentalist you do not realize that there cannot be any such voice as you think you have heard. It is the historical consciousness itself that is the only ultimate authority. The historical consciousness must, in terms all its own, evaluate any voice that claims to speak to it from above about the past and about the future, or even about the present. …

We are sorry for you, Mr. Noah. You have spent a great deal of effort and ingenuity in the building of your ark, for the saving of your house to the exclusion of all others. You have not noticed, but we too are building our ark. Our building program too is built upon a totality view of history and of nature. We too have our Christ, as the unifying idea for all our efforts. But our Christ is not some extraneous, unknowable Christ. Our Christ is present to all of us. We all live and move and have our being in him. He is nearer to us than hands and feet.

Given this Christ, we have the long range view of history. In and through this inward Christ we see that as in Adam all die, so in Christ every man is already alive. And in view of this Christ as Lord of nature, we see that all catastrophes that may occur, such as floods, are, in the long run, not destructive but constructive. There will not, there cannot be any such thing as future condemnation of any man. To be sure, we have been and are very wicked. We are totally depraved. We are no doubt under the wrath of God. We are reprobate. And, of course, this holds true for you as well as for us. But all of us, you as well as we, are reprobate in Christ and therefore we are, all of us, elect in him. The final word to all men is that to be men they are fellow-men with Christ.

It is thus that our science, our philosophy, and our theology compel us to decline our invitation to come into the ark. Your condition for our entrance into your ark and therefore for participation in the future kingdom is repentance unto your God and belief in your Christ. Can you not see that our science, our philosophy, and our theology make any such thing as repentance in your sense of the word meaningless?

Do come with us. We will not exclude you as you seek to exclude us. We only ask you to repent from your pretense of being better than others. Be true to your true self and you will join us in our ark. Let’s hope it will save us all.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth… And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark’ (Gen. 7:17, 23).
Cornelius Van Til, The Great Debate Today (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1971), 94-95.


  • The Rev. Jake Dell is the Priest-in-Charge of St. Peter’s Lithgow in Millbrook, New York. He is a member of the board of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion-USA.

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