Foreword to In Defense of the Eschaton

November 20, 2015

by Lane Tipton

The following foreword is to William D. Dennison’s new anthology, In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics. To celebrate the launch of the book, the Westminster Bookstore is offering a 40% discount until November 27.

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The theology of Geerhardus Vos and the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til stand out in the twentieth century as the purest antidotes for the destructive methodologies of modern philosophy and theology.

Given the developments in the wake of Kant’s critical philosophy, modern theology and philosophy have united in asserting that the self-contained ontological Trinity, sovereign author of a history of special revelation that has the eschatological kingdom of God in Christ at its center, cannot be allowed to form the presuppositional context for all theological and philosophical reflection. Nor can appeal be made to an inerrant, revelational record of that history of special revelation, which the confessional Reformed tradition understands as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Modern theology and philosophy sacrifice this remnant of an “older” Augustinian and Calvinistic theology on the altar of autonomous scholarship. However, both Vos and Van Til self-consciously seek to defend the genius of Reformed theology in this post-Enlightenment context.

Vos and Van Til self-consciously seek to defend the genius of Reformed theology in this post-Enlightenment context.

Vos’s formulation of a supernatural, progressive, and organic conception of a history of special revelation positions his notion of biblical theology over against all forms of “modern” biblical theology indebted to Gabler and the so-called critical tradition. In turn, Van Til’s robust apologetic, which begins with the ontological Trinity and his comprehensive covenantal revelation, both general and special, places the concrete claims of the Christian worldview over against all forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.

Nevertheless, neither Vos nor Van Til seeks merely to repristinate Augustine or Calvin. Both extend the genius of Augustinian Calvinism beyond its pre-Enlightenment expressions in order to deal with the unique problems that arise on the other side of the Enlightenment.

Vos seeks to set a self-consciously Reformed understanding of the history of special revelation over against various permutations of a critical notion of biblical theology. He engages the critical tradition and advances an orthodox understanding of biblical theology by dealing head on with the special problems that arise within that critical tradition.

Van Til’s apologetic is self-consciously set within the context of both modern theology and modern philosophy. Van Til never tires of setting Calvinism over against modern philosophy—whether it be absolute idealism or pragmatism—or modern theology—whether liberal or neo-orthodox. Even a cursory reading of his A Survey of Christian Epistemology or The Defense of the Faith will make this point emphatically.

Vos and Van Til unite in reasserting the theological convictions central to Augustinian Calvinism, but they enrich and apply those convictions to the new developments that arise from the pressing issues of their day. Not a shred of the older theology is abandoned. Yet that older theology begins to develop in a richer way as a result of critical engagement with those whose presuppositions and methods would seek to destroy that older theology.

Dr. Dennison’s work as a whole represents a high-level synthesis of the methodologies of Vos and Van Til.

It is squarely within this context that William D. Dennison has labored as a theologian and apologist. The essays in this volume are not mere restatements of Vos or Van Til. Rather, you will find here creative and constructive applications of their basic insights to topics that advance Reformed theology and apologetics.

Dr. Dennison’s work as a whole represents a high-level synthesis of the methodologies of Vos and Van Til. He seeks to apply a radically non-speculative, revelationally regulated methodology to a host of issues that neither Vos nor Van Til had opportunity to address. I enthusiastically commend to the reader the work of Dr. Dennison. His insights are penetrating, and his interests are wide-ranging. He has taken up the mantle of Vos and Van Til in both the polemical defense and constructive extension of the Reformed faith. I pray this volume finds a wide and appreciative readership.

 

Lane G. Tipton
Westminster Theological Seminary
April 16, 2015

Lane Tipton

Dr. Tipton (PhD, Westminster) is professor of systematic theology at WTS.

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