Getting Your Bearings on Van Til’s Apologetic

January 25, 2017

by Scott Oliphint

The beauty of the apologetic method of Cornelius Van Til is its biblical nature and—resulting from that commitment to Scripture—its Reformed theological motivation. Unlike every other apologetic method, it is meant for the church. It does not require us to be experts in philosophy or even in theology. Instead, Van Til’s apologetic method recognizes that any and every Christian can offer a defense of Christianity (1 Peter 3:15). Once we realize that only Scripture gives us a proper interpretation of ourselves, the world, and of God himself, we can see that all of our discussions and defenses of Christianity must begin with Scripture.

Primarily, Van Til’s apologetic recognizes the covenantal dimension of all of reality. Reality is exhaustively covenantal; it is qualified at every point by virtue of God’s relationship to every person. Because all people are, at root, covenantally qualified beings, we approach a defense of Christianity in the context of that relationship. With Scripture as our sure foundation, we show people that their constant and futile attempt to destroy their relationship to God denies the very reality in which they must live. We show them that only Christianity properly describes and defines who they are, what the world is, and what is our place in that world. In fact, we show them that only Christianity can break the bondage of sin that holds captive our thinking, living, and every other aspect of who we are. All of life is absurd without the truth of Christianity. A Christian apologetic seeks to show that absurdity in anti-Christian worldviews and, then, to deconstruct those worldviews against the backdrop of the light of the truth in Christ.

Resources on Van Til:

Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til

The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til

Why I Believe in God by Cornelius Van Til

Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith by K. Scott Oliphint

Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John Muether

Scott Oliphint

Dr. Oliphint (PhD, Westminster) is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at WTS.

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Applying the Text

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by Kent Hughes