For Christians seeking to know how to defend our faith in today's world, Cornelius Van Til
is impossible to avoid. Some love him, others hate him, and still others try to ignore him altogether, but no one denies that he began a revolution in the field of apologetics. Believers should no longer defend our faith in the traditional way, Van Til insisted. Rather, we must reason by presupposition.
As a result, anyone wanting to learn more about the presuppositional method of apologetics needs to go back to the source--Van Til himself. And a great introduction to his approach is Christian Apologetics
At the same time, reading Van Til is not easy. He writes as a knowledgeable and sophisticated philosopher, and this work is essentially one of his syllabi for courses at Westminster Theological Seminary. I admittedly found myself reading over some paragraphs three or four times, and even then I only probably understood 3/4ths of his book. Nevertheless, this difficulty should not stop anyone from taking the time to digest Christian Apologetics. After all, how can one truly learn except by struggling through important and informative material? This book is well worth the effort.
There are a few reasons why I recommend this book so strongly. First, Van Til roots his method for defending the faith in theology. He begins his study of apologetics where any Christian should start--with our Triune God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. The biblical worldview itself (including its truths about God, humanity, Christ, salvation, the church, and God's plan for His creation) leads us to understand how we are to defend our faith. We defend God's revealed worldview as a whole, confronting non-believers with their rejection and suppression of it.
Second, Van Til often uses helpful and memorable illustrations and analogies. From a fortress to a saw, from the sun to water, this book is filled with memorable insights as he explains his tightly-knit argumentation.
Third, actually reading Van Til will correct misunderstandings surrounding him and his views. For example, how many times have you heard that Van Til didn't believe in using evidences? Anybody who will take the time to read his work knows that such a claim is simply in error. Here is one example:
This does not imply that it will be possible to bring the whole debate about Christian theism to full expression in every discussion of individual historical fact. Nor does it imply that the debate about historical detail is unimportant. It means that no Christian apologist can afford to forget the claim of his system with respect to any particular fact. . . . It is only as manifestations of that system that they are what they are. If the apologist does not present them as such, he does not present them for what they are (153-154).
Van Til was not opposed to using facts. He was opposed to using "brute" facts--facts used on their own, divorced from the Christian worldview that gives them meaning.
Fourth, the second edition of this book is even more valuable. Edited by William Edgar, it includes a helpful introduction as well as explanatory notes throughout (while never distracting from Van Til's actual writing). Latin terms are translated and philosophical concepts are explained. His notes are brief but tremendously beneficial.
What can I say? Take up the difficult but rewarding challenge of reading Van Til. If you stick with it, you won't be disappointed. Once we understand how God wants us to defend our faith, we can confidently confront non-believers with their rebellion against their Creator. By God's grace, they will be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.
Labels: Apologetics, Book Review