The Lost Art of Apologetics

Scott Oliphint
“It is in Van Til’s writings, as opposed to those of Aquinas and other apologists, that we are constantly referred to the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. You cannot read one book by Van Til that will not continually point your approach, and thus point the unbeliever, to Christ and his Word.

Van Til was once criticized for confusing apologetics with evangelism. His response was gracious but to the point. He simply said, “You are certainly right in saying that I did not … make any sharp distinction between witnessing to and defending the Christian faith. My defense of the truth of Christianity is, as I think of it, always, at the same time, a witness to Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I must then plead with [unbelievers] to accept Christ as their Savior from the sin of autonomy, and therewith, at the same time, to discover that they have been given, in Christ, the only foundation for intelligent predication.“To give a defense is to bear witness to Christ carefully and intelligently, but always and everywhere biblically! Sola Scriptura!” – Scott Oliphint from the article The Lost Art of Apologetics: from New Horizons, December 1991.

Who Do You Say That I Am? by Cornelius Van Til

by Cornelius Van Til
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1975. 106 pp.
A concise overview of the history of philosophy in relationship to the claims of Christ. These lectures also exist in audio tape form.


Ancient Man Replies
A. Who Blasphemes, Jesus or the Pharisees?
B. Stephen the Martyr
C. The Risen Lord Appears to Paul
D. Saul the Persecutor Becomes Paul the Apostle
     1. Paul at Lystra
     2. Paul and the Greek Philosophers
E. Paul’s World-Wide Mission
     1. Paul at Athens—the Biblical Framework of Thought
          a. All Men are Covenant-Breakers in Adam
          b. The Resurrection Indicates the Coming Judgment
F. The Greek Paideia
     1. Behold the Man: Socrates
     2. Werner Jaeger on the Greek Paideia
          a. (Arete)
          b. The Search for a Divine Center: Socrates
          c. The Contrast Between the Greek and the Christian Paideia
     3. Platonic Idealism
     4. Aristotle’s Form-Matter Scheme
Medieval Man Replies
A. Plotinus and Augustine
     1. Plotinus and the Scale of Being
B. Augustine and the City of God
C. From Augustine to Thomas Aquinas
     1. Negative Theology—Pseudo-Dionysius
     2. Natural Theology
     3. Mystical Theology
D. Gilson’s Argument for the Medieval Synthesis
     1. Necessity—The Parmenidean Principle of Continuity
          a. A Christian Philosophy
     2. Contingency—The Heraclitean Principle of Discontinuity
E. Degrees of Knowledge
     1. Thomas Aquinas as the Medieval Man—Par Excellence
F. Degrees of Love
G. The Total Picture
H. The Substantial Unity of Man
I. Conclusion
Modern Man Replies
A. Renaissance Man Replies
     1. Renaissance Man vs. Reformation Man
          a. Modern Science
     2. Renaissance Man’s Idea of Himself
          a. Nicolas Cusanus
          b. Francis Bacon
     3. Reformation Man’s Idea of Himself
          a. Martin Luther vs. Boehme
          b. Descartes vs. Calvin
B. Immanuel Kant and the Principle of Inwardness
C. Post-Kantian Man Replies
     1. The Post-Kantian Theologian—Karl Barth Replies
     2. The Post-Kantian Scientist—Teilhard de Chardin Replies
     3. The Post-Kantian Philosopher—Robert Collingwood Replies
D. The Modern Church Replies—The Congress of 2000
     1. The Confession of 1967
     2. Lutherans and Calvinists
     3. The Protestant Principle and the Roman Catholic Principle
     4. The Christian Principle and the Jewish Principle
     5. The Thirty-Eighth Parallel


” ’But who do you say that I am?’ asked Jesus. Ancient man replied, ’You are a mere man. ’ Medieval man answered, ’You are a man-God. ’ Modern man responds, ’You are Authentic Man.’ There has never been a time when the question of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth was so important as it is today. For example, was He the self-attesting Christ of the historic Protestant confessions; or is He, rather, the ’Christ-Event’ of post-Kantian philosophy and theology? The present booklet gives the writer’s reasons for believing Him to be not the latter but the former. If one would reject the genuine, self-attesting Christ of Scripture, he must do so, unavoidably, in terms of the self-attesting man. But the very existence of the latter presupposes, unavoidably, the self-attesting Christ; thus, to deny the former’s claim is self-stultifying.”-from the Preface


Common Grace and the Gospel by Cornelius Van Til

by Cornelius Van Til

Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972. 233 pp.

This is a fairly complete collection of Van Til’s writings on common grace and its relation to Christian apologetics.

Author’s Note and Preface

Part 1     [1941.E, 1945.D, 1946.F, 1947.C, 1954.D]
1.     The Christian Philosophy of History
2.     Abraham Kuyper’s Doctrine of Common Grace
3.     Common Grace in Debate

Part 2
4.     Particularism and Common Grace      [1951.I, 1952.A]
5.     Common Grace and Witness-Bearing      [1954.E, 1956.M]
6.     A Letter on Common Grace (Masselink)      [1953.G, 1955.L]
7.     A Reply to Criticism     [1966.Ga]
8.     Reformed Dogmatics of Herman Hoeksema     [1968.A]
9.     Terminal Considerations (New)

From the introduction…

“The subject of Common Grace was originally of interest to the present writer because it seemed to him to have basic significance for the subject of Christian Apologetics. Any one holding to the Reformed faith is constantly required to explain how he can do justice to the “universalism” of the gospel as presented in Scripture. How can he hold to election, especially “double election,” without doing violence to the “whosoever will” aspect of biblical teaching? How can he hold to “total depravity” and yet find a “point of contact” for the gospel among men in general?

There is no way of discussing these problems adequately except by way of setting forth the entire “philosophy of history” as the Reformed confessions teach it. When the Reformed view of the philosophy of history is set forth on a frankly biblical basis it appears that the questions pertaining to “human responsibility” and to “the point of contact” find their “solution” in the Reformed faith and nowhere else.

But then, to say this is not to say that the “solution” offered on these questions is a “systematic” one, in the sense that it is logically penetrable by the intellect of man. The biblical “system of truth” is not a “deductive system.” The various teachings of Scripture are not related to one another in the way that syllogisms of a series are related. The “system of truth” of Scripture presupposes the existence of the internally, eternally, self-coherent, triune God who reveals Himself to man with unqualified authority.

On the surface, and by the sound of words, all this might seem to indicate a neo-orthodox approach to the question of God and His relation to man. The opposite is the case. The neo-orthodox view of the relation of God to man is based on the idea that since man cannot have a “systematic,” i.e., purely rationalist knowledge of God, he must, in purely irrationalist fashion, fall back on the notion that any “systematic” interpretation of God’s “revelation” is nothing more than a “pointer” toward something of which man knows nothing. That is to say, the neo-orthodox view of God’s relation to man is based on the modern, particularly the post-Kantian, philosophical notion of truth as being nothing but a limiting concept. Man is surrounded by an ultimate void and he must direct the “flashlight” of his intellect into impenetrable mist. It is over against this post-Kantian view of the “limiting concept” that the writer speaks of a Christian limiting concept. This enables him, he thinks, to set off a truly biblical concept of mystery based on the God of Scripture, who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, from the non-Christian, in particular from the modern philosophical, concept of mystery. In the former case there is an intelligible, though not an exhaustive, intellectually penetrable basis for human experience. In the latter case man has no intelligible basis for his experience and, what is worse, insults the Christ who came to bring him light and life.

This is the point of view that binds the several chapters of this book together. So far from being a system of philosophical determinism that stultifies human knowledge and responsibility, the Reformed faith, being unreservedly based on biblical exegesis, is alone able to deliver to men the unadulterated joy of the gospel as it is in the Christ of the Scriptures.”