The Following PDF is a collection of 18 articles from 1940-1949 by Cornelius Van Til, written for “The Banner”, “The Presbyterian Guardian”, “Westminster Theological Journal”, a letter to the editor of Time and Life magazines, an introduction for one of B.B. Warfield’s books, and a couple other various Christian publications.. I spent some time creating the table of contents and added hyperlinks.
Next, I’d like to quote a few definitions, words often misunderstood…
Absolute Personality: VT’s basic characterization of God. Unlike any non-Christian view, the biblical God is both absolute (a se, self-existent, self-sufficient, self-contained) and personal (thinking, speaking, acting, loving, judging).
All-conditioner: VT’s characterization of God in “Why I Believe in God” (see Bahnsen, 121-143). God is the one who ultimately influences all reality, including our own thinking and reasoning about him.
Analogy, analogical reasoning: (1) (Aquinas) Thinking in language that is neither literally true (univocal), nor unrelated to the subject matter (equivocal), but which bears a genuine resemblance to that subject-matter. (2) (VT) Thinking in subjection to God’s revelation and therefore thinking God’s thoughts after him.
Antithesis: The opposition between Christian and non-Christian thought.
Autonomy: The attempt to live apart from any law external to the self. To VT, this is the paradigm attitude of unbelief.
Borrowed capital: The truth known and acknowledged by the unbeliever. He has no right to believe or assert truth in terms of his own presuppositions, but only on Christian ones. So his assertions of truth are based on borrowed capital.
Neutrality: Trying to think or live without making a religious commitment or ultimate presupposition. In VT’s view, this is impossible. Attempting it presupposes a commitment against the true God.
Objective Knowledge, Truth: Knowledge or truth whose truth does not depend on what man thinks.
Point of contact: A belief held in common between two people that enables them to reason toward further agreement. In VT, particularly the point of contact between believer and unbeliever. For VT it is found, not in a common world view, but in the true knowledge of God that the believer has, and the unbeliever also has, but suppresses.
Predication: attaching a predicate to a subject; hence, making an assertion. VT says that only the Christian world view makes predication possible.
Presupposition: (1) a belief that precedes other beliefs; (2) a belief that governs other beliefs; (3) ultimate presupposition: the belief that governs all other beliefs, or the most fundamental commitment of the heart.
Self–attestation, self-authentication: In any system of thought, the ultimate authority justifies itself. For VT that ultimate authority is God, especially when speaking in Scripture.
Starting point: In VT, synonym for “presupposition.” Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily refer to a beginning point in time, but rather to a belief that governs other beliefs.
For those who might not know, John M. Frame studied under the late Dr. Van Til, and has ever since remained one of his most well known and beloved “disciples”, he is one of two major interpreters of Dr. Van Til ( the other is the late Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen). His writings are invaluable to gaining a greater understanding of Dr. Van Til.
Author Name: North, Gary Keywords: theology Book Title: Westminster’s Confession Subtitle: The Abandonment of Van Til’s Legacy Pages: 385 Subject: Theonomy Year of Publication: 1991
Description: “In the final days of October, 1990, the long-predicted book by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary finally appeared: Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. In response come Westminster’s Confession. It is both a negative and a positive statement. Theonomists believe that “you can’t beat something with nothing.” It is not enough to demonstrate that someone is wrong; you must also show what is correct. Cornelius Van Til made this principle the bedrock application of his apologetic method. It was not enough to demonstrate that his opponents’ systems of thought were internally inconsistent; he also showed why Christianity is the only logical alternative. But he left an incomplete legacy. He refused to offer an explicitly biblical alternative to the natural law theory that he had refuted. His system created a judicial vacuum. Into that vacuum have come two rival factions: the political pluralists and the theonomists. The battle is now engaged. Westminster Seminary’s problem for a generation – indeed, Calvinistic American Presbyterianism’s problem for two centuries – has been to justify a commitment to modern religious and political pluralism in terms of the Westminster Confession’s judicial standards. The faculty has been double-minded on this point: Proclaiming their commitment to Van Til’s apologetic method, they have simultaneously denied the idea that the Bible is the bearer of biblical blueprints or judicial frameworks for society. In short, they have abandoned any ideal of a Christian society, i.e., Christendom itself. This is Westminster’s social and cultural confession – a Theologically negative confession, proclaiming in the name of the original Westminster Assembly what society ought not to be, but never daring to suggest what it should be. In contrast,Westminster’s Confession offers a positive confession. It offers a biblical alternative. It restores the vision of Christendom.”
Amazon Reviewer Steven H. Propp:
“Gary Kilgore North (born 1942) is head of the Institute for Christian Economics, and a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, who has written widely on many topics (including postmillennial eschatology).
He wrote in the Foreword to this often sharply-worded 1991 book, “This book is a refutation of Theonomy: A Reformed Critique… My book is what some people will call a ‘quickie.’ The Westminster book is, too, but it took about five years to get it into print… In short, I did not devote my full attention to writing this book… So it is hardly a great book. It does not have to be a great book. It just has to be better than ‘Theonomy: A Reformed Critique.’ … What I neglect will be covered by Greg Bahnsen in the book I commissioned him to write, No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics…”
He asserts, “(Westminster is) no longer willing to defend without qualification Cornelius Van Til’s absolute rejection of natural law theory, both ancient and modern. Here is Westminster’s dilemma: it had to break publicly with Van Til’s philosophy in order to justify its rejection of theonomy. It had to reject his monumental legacy to the Church. Yet even now, the faculty has refused to admit openly that most of them have made this break. This is the thesis of my book.” (Pg. xxii)
He points out, “Rousas Rushdoony does not belong to a local church, nor has he taken communion in two decades, except when he is on the road, speaking in a church that has a policy of open communion or is unaware of his non-member status. He has not spoken with (North or Bahnsen) for many years. But this is Rushdoony’s problem, not ours… Several Christian leaders have attempted to get me and Rushdoony to sit down and discuss our problems. I have in every case agreed, even flying to Washington, D.C., in 1981 to meet with him. He backed out of his agreement when I walked in the room, and he has refused all mediation ever since.” (Pg. 80-81)
He further reveals about his famous disagreement with his father-in-law, “The time has come to stop covering up what really is going on… I submitted to (Rousas J. Rushdoony’s) Chalcedon Report my monthly essay… Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it… he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us (North and James Jordan) both… they replied that (the article) was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical… (Rushdoony) then publicly fired me and Jordan from the Chalcedon Report… What is this disagreement all about? It is (local church) Tyler’s disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord’s Supper…” (Pg. 334-336)
This book will be “must reading” for people wanting “in-depth” information about the Christian Reconstruction/Theonomy debate.”
Author Greg L. Bahnsen was the scholar-in-residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies and an ordained minister iin the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California, specializing in the field of epistemology (theory of Knowledge). He also received M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Dr. Bahnsen was the author of numerous books and published articles and was a popular conference speaker. He was also a renowned public debater as evidenced in his interchanges with Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jews, and atheists. A complete list of his over 1,700 audio tapes, videos, articles, and books is available from the Covenant Media Foundation.
Christianbook.com description: More than a simple Cook’s tour of an influential apologist, Greg Bahnsen presents Van Til’s theology as he actually wrote it, but with the added commentary necessary to bridge the gap between the perceived audience of the writer and the layman. Bahnsen doesn’t oversimplify, but gives true commentary and context to spotlight the material in a way that even long-time Van Til readers will find refreshing.
Van Til didn’t shy away from the difficult aspects of presuppositional apologetics (which uses Christianity as a starting point rather than nature or hard science), but embraced them, incorporating them into his presentation of the Christian worldview. Bahnsen molds much of the souce texts into a comprehensive treatise on Apologetics, and covers such varied ground as:
The place of Apologetics in Theology
The nature, necessity and aim of Apologetics
Apologetics in relation to Epistemology (the study of the limits and validity of knowledge)
The complexities and failures of unbeliefAlthough Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) authored over 250 separate pieces of material, he never released an in-depth systematic overview. This volume distills his thought on presuppositionalism, giving space to fully illustrate this biblically-based type of apologetical argument.
Faculty Review: This the the late Dr. Bahnsen’s testament to today’s defenders of the truth. It is an encyclopedic synthesis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til, who was arguably the most original apologist of the twentieth century. In the grand tradition of the Sentences of the fathers, this study will be a standard for years to come. – William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary
Faculty Review: Our Confident expectation is that this volume will prove effective both as an introduction to [Van Til’s] thought and for promoting a deepening understanding of it. – Richard B. Gaffin and K. Scott Oliphint, professors at Westminster Theological Seminary
Staff Review:, Cornelius Van Til’s distinctive, Reformed approach to apologetics (“transcendental,” “presuppositional,” and “covenantal”) stands as a milestone in the history of Reformed theology. Greg Bahnsen’s volume captures the significance of Van Til’s contribution in a way that preserves the details of his approach. Bahnsen’s lucid style brings greater clarity to Van Til’s corpus and is a must read for students of Van Til’s theology and apologetics. Bahnsen provides helpful discussions of the issue of ultimate authority and human knowledge, the impossibility of the contrary, the transcendental argument for God’s existence, and an epistemologically self-conscious apologetic. He also offers insightful treatments of the importance of Reformed theology for apologetics, the presuppositional conflict of worldviews, the relation of presuppositions and the use of evidence, and an analysis of competing apologetical systems (evidentialism and natural theology). Bahnsen also opens an illuminating window on Van Til’s relationship to Old Princeton (especially Warfield) and Amsterdam (Kuyper) and shows where he agrees and disagrees with each. Another hallmark is the judicious selection of primary readings. – Jeff Waddington – Westminster Bookstore Staff
Monergism Review: There is only one work to buy on Van Til and this is it. Bahnsen has written the definitive commentary on the works of the great thinker. Van Til is very hard to understand because his thought is deep and abstract. Bahnsen provides readings and analysis so that Van Til becomes assessable to everyone. This book is a goldmine of information, tackling the problems of unbelief and exposing them to the light of a “presuppositional apologetic”. If your not sure what “presuppositional apologetics” means this book is a good place to start. If you are a “presuppositional apologist” then you will fully agree- this book is worth every cent! The task Bahnsen has completed would be absolutely daunting, but nothing has been dummied down to insult the intelligence of the reader. At the same time, non-technical readers can understand it. I couldn’t even imagine where one would begin with a synthesis of Van Til, but Bahnsen gives us clarity where there has been much confusion. It is strange that one should start with Bahnsen instead of Van Til if they really want to understand Van Til. But this is true because “Van Til’s Apologetic” is the clearest, most accurately systematized introduction to Van Til available. Indeed, Van Til could not have done better! You have not studied apologetics until you have studied the works of Van Til and this book is all you need to accomplish that task. – B. K. Campbell
Amazon Reviewer A. Blake White: “Reading this book has been nothing less than ‘epoch-making.’ Dr. Van Til’s writings are voluminous, spanning 3 feet on a book shelf when combined. Greg Bahnsen has done the church a great service by compiling, and systematically organizing some of Van Til’s key writings into about 3 inches of shelf space (764 pp). The book is almost an anthology with running commentary by Bahnsen. Bahnsen usually opens each section with an intro, which is followed by many sections of Van Til’s writings pertaining to the relevant topic, with lots of footnotes from Bahnsen analyzing, adding, and answering critics along the way. Van Til can be hard to read in places, as he is very well read, and expects his reader to be familiar with the history of Western philosophy. Bahnsen is very helpful here in the footnotes. The book has 9 chapters:
1. An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic
2. The Task of Apologetics
3. A Simple Summary and Illustration
4. The Epistemological Side of Apologetics
5. The Apologetical Side of Epistemology
6. The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief
7. The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument
8. Comparisons and Criticisms of Apologetical Methods
9. Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith
It is saddening to know that this book has not and probably will not gain much of a hearing outside Presbyterian circles. Van Til really is a brilliant gift to the church and was crucial in the ‘Reformation of Christian Apologetics.’ One could not ask for a higher view of Scripture. Van Til took the lordship of Christ seriously, especially concerning the realm of knowledge.
–The gospel of the self-authenticating God speaking through Christ in Scripture offers man salvation, not only for his life, but for his science and philosophy and theology as well. (571)
–Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold. It is wholly irrational to hold any other position than that of Christianity. Christianity alone does not slay reason on the altar of `chance.’ (730)
–Every Evangelical, as a sincere Christian is at heart a Calvinist. But witnessing is a matter of the head as well as the heart. If the world is to hear a consistent testimony for the Christian faith, it is the Calvinist who must give it. (582)
–So in presuppositional apologetics we seek to “remove the enemy’s foundation” by reducing his worldview to absurdity, thereby rendering the claims that constitute his case against the gospel unintelligible and demonstrating the necessity of the Christian worldview if we are to make sense of argumentation about reasoning about, and interpretation of, any element of human experience. (111)
–It is therefore mandatory that Reformed theologians urge their fellow Protestants everywhere to call upon modern man to interpret his life in terms of the book of God and therefore in terms of the God of the book. (713)”