Every Thought Captive by Richard L. Pratt Jr.

Richard Pratt, Every Thought CaptiveAuthor: Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Binding: Paperback

Page Count: 166

Publisher: P&R Publishing

Year: 1979

ISBN#: 9780875523521

Description: A popular presentation of Reformed (or “Van Tillian”) apologetics for the layperson. Suitable for students, especically undergraduates. In down-to-earth language Richard L. Pratt, Jr. has given us this helpful study manual on apologetics, the task of defending the faith. Far from a theoretical exposition, this training manual teaches how to answer nonbelievers and to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Pratt shows how the biblical doctrines about humanity and our relationship to our Creator determine how we should do apologetics. Within this theological framework he examines the premises, attitudes, and specific steps involved in a genuinely biblical defense of Christianity. Illustrations and review questions help to make this a valuable tool for individual or group study.

About the author: Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is a graduate of Roanoke College. He holds the M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and the Th.D. in Old Testament Studies from Harvard Divinity School (while at Harvard he gained a reading knowledge of eleven languages.) He is currently a Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He is author of the books Designed for Dignity: What God Has Made It Possible for You to Be and He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives and has been a contributor to several books and journals.

Endorsements: “Richard Pratt has written a manual to help ordinary people engage in apologetics along the lines of Van Til’s approach. In the process he has translated the philosophical terminology of Van Tillian apologetics into everyday language…both sound and stimulating.” – Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

“Presents Reformed (or ‘Van Tillian’) apologetics in genuinely popular language…In this respect, Pratt’s book is something of a breakthrough. I would expect and hope that this accomplishment will give the book a wide hearing.” – John M. Frame

Amazon Reviewer Nunja Bidnet: Van Til for the rest of us

“We’ve heard often in Evangelical circles the declaration that “No one has ever come to Christ by losing an argument.” These declarers are just using the wrong arguments, or at least have failed to ground their argument on a proper foundation. I would contend, after reading Richard Pratt’s Every Thought Captive, that in order for one to come to Christ, one must lose an argument. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,” (I Cor. 2:14) so all who have been saved lost an argument with – no, a war against – God and have been convicted by His revealed Word in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pratt’s goals in Every Thought Captive are simple but lofty. Heavily influenced by Van Til, but cognizant of the general inaccessibility of the revered apologist’s writing, Pratt hopes his work brings Van Til’s “worthwhile writings” within “the grasp of the average layperson.” Having minimal direct exposure to Van Til, I can’t say whether justice has been done to the man’s work, but Pratt does effectively outline a strategy that properly encourages, orients and humbles any rank-and-file would-be apologist for the daunting work we are called to do.

Pratt dedicates better than two-thirds of his book laying a “firm foundation” for the defense of Biblical Christianity. While many – maybe most, particularly those of evidentialists – apologetics works jump directly into “point-counterpoint,” Pratt wisely puts first things first. Pratt does not pay passing lip service to the idea that commitment to faith in Christ, with Scripture as its foundation, is the only Biblical approach to apologetics and evangelism. He hammers the point relentlessly. Not a bad thing, since the tendency of most is to default to what is comfortable. What is comfortable is what is found in most apologetics works – load us up with a bursting binder of facts and an exhaustive chronicle of cute one-liners meant to score rhetorical points then send us on our way to play the game on the non-believers’ turf by the non-believers’ rules. For Pratt, this method plays directly into our opposition’s hands. Pratt makes clear that the Christian apologist must use the Bible as the foundation for our defense, but also that the Bible itself, an object of scorn for the enemy, must be defended. The kings and generals analogy (p. 4) was effective – “It is clearly the generals’ responsibility to defend the king…according to the directives of the king himself.” A full clip of clever sound bites cannot accomplish Peter’s directive regarding a ready defense.

Pratt continues outlining the basis for an apologetic defense for ten “lessons.” The primary strength of the book is here. Pratt orients the believer in such a way that places him properly in relation to God. When one understands that it all began with God, who man was before sin, who man is in sin and what our redemption is in Christ, our function as apologists comes into clear focus. The only independent agent in the universe is God. Everyone and everything else is dependent and finite. The Christian must never attempt to loose himself from that anchor, or he becomes as deluded as the denier and an impotent apologist. Only our dependence on God produces “true knowledge.” Our attempts at independence are rebellion against God. And these attempts at independence are not merely futile, but death (Gen. 2:17). “Independence” results in reckoning all things, to quote Calvin, “by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity.” (p. 31) As believers “restored according to the original character of the image of God,” dependence on God involves not “merely some portion of man…[but] his whole character.” (p.39)

This is not to say, as Pratt makes clear, that never may a believer refer to extra-Biblical sources to demonstrate Truth. He cites Paul to make the point that we may do so, but we must “see to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” (Col. 2:8) The non-believer will insist that logic, reason and philosophy must be based on human “independence” and “neutrality,” an idea that Pratt prepares the apologist to dismantle completely. Fatal violence is done to the non-believer’s illusory regard for his “independence” by illuminating the contradictions on which he must rely in order to sustain his argument – absolute certainty and total uncertainty. On the other hand, “Christians are able to know and follow God’s revelation and therefore produce a philosophy which is not according to independent human perspectives.” (p. 51)

Pratt admits that both the believer and non-believer are committed to circular arguments, but the Christian holds to an objective, eternal and limitless God outside himself as the center, while the non-believer holds to himself and his limited, subjective perceptions, as if the world around us would cease to be once that non-believer did. The “neutral” non-believer’s circular reasoning sets himself up as the explanation for, or at least the explainer of, the universe. The believer need not be so arrogant. And Pratt implores the believer to avoid arrogance by maintaining a consistent life, a careful approach and correct procedure. (Lesson 8)

When Pratt moves to the “basic structure of a Biblical defense,” he does his best, in relying on Proverbs 26:4-5, to construct a practical apologetic approach. The “two-fold justification” model includes two three-step methods – the “argument by truth” and “the argument by folly.” Understanding that Pratt meant this to be a study manual, not an exhaustive, answer-every-challenge guide, the structure he lays out is not quite as simple for the layperson as he intended.

The steps in the “argument by truth” has the apologist properly place faith in Christ first and at the center, then offer Christian evidence for belief in the existence of God, then expose the non-believer’s rejection of the first two steps as arising from the non-believer’s commitment to independence. Pratt instructs that to be prepared to make such a defense, the Christian must know Scripture and maintain Christ as the center. Fair enough, true enough and easy enough, conceptually anyway.

Overall, Every Thought Captive proved to be a useful and accessible primer on the proper approach to the defense of Biblical Christianity. As John Newton in A Review of Ecclesiastical History (1769) wrote, “So long as the gospel of Christ is maintained without adulteration, it is found sufficient for every valuable purpose; but when the wisdom of man is permitted to add to the perfect work of God, a wide door is opened for innumerable mischiefs.” Pratt relates this message well in encouraging Christians to rely on the unshakable foundation of God’s revealed Word in preparing our defense.”

Sample Pages: http://books.google.com/books?id=XsHC9muwXRsC&pg=PA39&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

Westminster’s Confession: The Abandonment of Van Til’s Legacy by Gary North

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.”

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE: http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/westministers_confession.pdf


Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg L. Bahnsen

by Greg Bahnsen

Author: Bahnsen, Greg L.

Publisher: P & R Publishing Company

Date: July 1998

ISBN-10: 0875520987 | ISBN-13: 9780875520988

Binding: Hardcover

Pages: 764

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)
  • Comparative apologetics
  • 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)”

Paradox and Truth: Rethinking Van Til on the Trinity by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

From the introduction: “Cornelius Van Til’s doctrine of the Trinity has been variously viewed. On the one hand, it has been misconstrued as heretical or attacked as rash and dangerous by some. On the other hand, however, a not insignificant group of theologians and Christian writers has found Van Til’s doctrine of the Trinity to be a fruitful source for serious work to develop a truly Christian worldview. The contrast between the two groups’ evaluation of Van Til could not be greater. Evaluating Van Til is something of a theological problem, which has now become further complicated by recent studies of the doctrine of the Trinity which have been critical of Augustine’s formulation — the foundation of Van Til’s approach. A Reformed representative of those critical of Augustine is Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.1 who offers, in the place of the traditional statements of the doctrine, a social view of the Trinity.

This recent study of the Trinity invites reconsideration of Van Til’s view. Does Plantinga’s social view of the Trinity and recent critique of Augustine require a revision of Van Til’s approach? What about Van Til’s use of non-traditional language? Is it legitimate or is it a “novelty” that causes confusion? What are the worldview implications of Van Til’s view of the Trinity and does Plantinga’s view significantly alter these? To consider these and similar questions, we introduce and evaluate Cornelius Plantinga’s social view of the Trinity, briefly explain and attempt to defend certain aspects of Van Til’s view and compare it with Plantinga’s, and, finally, suggest a revision of Van Til’s view that sets the doctrine of the Trinity more clearly at the center of systematic and Biblical theology and the Christian worldview. It is my purpose to help bring Van Til’s profound exposition of the Trinity back into the discussion of this doctrine and, in that connection, to help stimulate further consideration of the worldview implications of the doctrine of the Trinity.” – Ralph Smith

I recommend Paradox and Truth: Rethinking Van Til on the Trinity by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith to anyone looking for more insight into Van Til’s teachings, the following link is to Rev. Smith’s website where you can read a couple of samples from the book: http://www.berith.org/essays/pt/ If you are a Van Tillian, and are involved in doing apologetics (especially on the internet), you may butt heads with someone introducing common misunderstandings of Van Til’s position on the Trinity, and this book along with Van Til’s writings should help clear things up.

Van Til: Defender of the Faith by William White

Author: White, William

ISBN: 840756704

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Pages: 233

Binding: Paperback

Product Description:

“He has been praised, condemned, quoted, misquoted, represented, misrepresented, understood, misunderstood, loved, hated, explored, ignored.”

So writes William White, Jr., in the introduction to the authorized biography of the greatest apologist in American theology, Cornelius Van Til.

Van Til, former professor at both Princeton and Westminster seminaries, turned the field of apologetics upside down by de-emphasizing man’s rational faculty. “To employ the launching pad of the naked intellect instead of the launching pad of Scripture is to fight the Lord’s battle in Saul’s armor. All thinking must begin where the Bible does: ‘In the beginning, God…; otherwise all is chaos.”

White skillfully unfolds the story of Van Til’s early years in the Netherlands and later in Indiana, his mutual love for learning and farming, his marriage to Rena Klooster, and his call to the ministry, and eventually to the university. The author reveals Van Til’s personal side: his sense of humor, adventure, and uncompromising conviction.

White traces Van Til’s philosophic development with care. But always, there is the humanity and humility of the man, his love of Scripture. White points out that Van Til, like Luther is “bold before man, humble before God.”

I highly recommend White’s book to anyone interested in Van Til, especially his personal life.. Perhaps you are familiar with Van Til the Apologist, Van Til the Professor, Van Til the Theologian, Van Til the Preacher, in the pages of this book, you will become familiar with Van Til the man, and what an interesting portrait of his life this is! For example, did you know Van Til was married to his wife Renee for 53 years? Not so many people can say the same, considering how common divorce is in America, including professing Christians. He was not a perfect man, and did not have a perfect life. He went through struggles and disappointments like the rest of us, at the same time, it is amazing all that God did through him! This great biography of Van Til is out of print, but can be found through searching.

Van Til, defender of the faith: An authorized biography