Thursday, September 13, 2007
Book Review: Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til
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: ,

posted at 10:00 PM  
Comments (9)

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Great thoughts John.
I'm certainly glad you are on "my side" on this issue. :)

Perhaps one day we can write a book together, covering cults from a presupp. methodology.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger tc said...

A fellow Reformed pastor friend of mine did his doctorate at Westminster and wrote his dissertation on presuppositional apologetics.

We went through some 300page of this thing. Before that, I had never heard of presuppostional apologetics. Rather,I was exposed to evidential apologetics.

But presuppositional makes a lot more sense to me. Although there's a place from evidential apologetics.

Thanks John.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger John Divito said...


I'd be honored to work on a book together. Maybe you'd also consider joining me in East Africa to help fellow believers grow in their biblical discernment and defense of the faith! :-)


I think it is important to differentiate the use of evidences from an evidential methodology. Presuppositionalism has no problem with the former, but could not embrace the later. Depending on one's variation of presuppositionalism, either evidentialism is opposed to presuppositionalism (Bahnsen) or it is incomplete without presuppositionalism (Frame).

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Maybe you'd also consider joining me in East Africa to help fellow believers grow in their biblical discernment and defense of the faith! :-)

Very funny.

I am certainly open to wherever the Lord takes us. We're hoping it is back to PA, but I'm open to East Africa.

Not sure how well I'd do with the language though. I can't even get Greek down. :)

At 9:35 PM, Blogger tc said...


Thanks for the context. I like the sound Frame's approach over Bahnsen.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Educator-To-Be said...

Thank you for the recommendation. I am going to get this book and read it. Amy

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Glenn Hendrickson said...

that paragraph about the 2nd edition makes me jealous. I got the first ed. used for a good price. Oh well... Van Til is worth it to buy the 2nd I suppose.


At 9:12 PM, Blogger John Divito said...


It is great to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts once you get done reading the book.


I understand your dilemma! Hopefully, you don't already have a copy of Van Til's Introduction to Systematic Theology. They are releasing a second edition later this year! Guess what is already on my wish list...

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Taylor Marshall said...

Catholic critique of Van Til:


Post a Comment

<< Home

About Me


I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

My Complete Profile

About My Blog
  • Why I am the Reformed Baptist Thinker

  • Recent Posts
  • Announcement: ACFAR is Now Online!

  • Book Review: Pushing the Antithesis

  • New Dogtoons Interview with Weird Al

  • Monk and Neagle, "The Twenty-First Time"

  • "Weird Al" Concert

  • Personal Update

  • ACFAR: Bringing Biblical Discernment to Africa

  • Ten Books that I'd Love to See

  • Moore on the Gospel, Culture and Evangelism

  • McLaren Continues Reading

  • Reformed Links
  • The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
  • The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America
  • Discerning Reader
  • Founders Ministries
  • The Gospel Coalition
  • Monergism
  • Nicene Council
  • The Reformed Baptist Theological Review
  • Reformation 21
  • The Spurgeon Archive
  • Third Millennium Ministries
  • Together for the Gospel
  • John Frame and Vern Poythress
  • Sam Waldron

  • Apologetics Links
  • Mormonism Research Ministry
  • Truth in Love Ministry
  • Centers for Apologetics Research
  • LifeWay Apologetics
  • Alpha and Omega Ministries

  • Blogroll
  • The A-Team Blog
  • Illumination
  • Mormon Coffee
  • Pros Apologian
  • Pulpit Magazine
  • Pyromaniacs
  • Reformation 21 Blog
  • Reformed Baptist Fellowship
  • Said at Southern
  • Together for the Gospel Blog
  • Tom Ascol
  • Les Bollinger
  • Denny Burk
  • Tim Challies
  • Steve Cowan
  • Jeff Downs
  • Bob Kauflin
  • Kevin Larson
  • Albert Mohler Commentary
  • Albert Mohler Blog
  • Russell Moore
  • Jonathan Moorhead
  • Matt Perry
  • David Sills
  • Justin Taylor
  • Brent Thomas
  • Joe Thorn
  • Paul Tripp
  • Keith Walker

  • Labels
  • Apologetics
  • Book Reviews
  • Christianity and Culture
  • Emerging Church and Postmodernism
  • Missions
  • Mormonism
  • Puritans
  • Theology
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic
  • Personal Life
  • Personal Ministry
  • Other Resources

  • Miscellaneous

    Subscribe to Reformed Baptist Thinker

  • December 2005

  • January 2006

  • February 2006

  • March 2006

  • April 2006

  • May 2006

  • June 2006

  • July 2006

  • August 2006

  • September 2006

  • October 2006

  • November 2006

  • December 2006

  • January 2007

  • February 2007

  • March 2007

  • April 2007

  • May 2007

  • June 2007

  • July 2007

  • August 2007

  • September 2007

  • October 2007

  • November 2007

  • December 2007

  • March 2008

  • Credits
    Blog Design by:

    Powered by:

    Image from: