Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Cornelius Van Til spent over 40 years of his life working to create and teach a philosophy of apologetics that was distinctively Reformed and thus Biblical. He called his approach Presuppositional apologetics or Transcendental apologetics. He anchored his approach in Covenantal thinking which was tied directly to the relationship of God in the Trinity. Van Til was followed by such philosophers as John Frame and Greg Bahnsen, who massaged and popularized Dr. Van Til’s approach.

Presuppositional apologetics is contrasted with what has been called Evidentialist or Classical apologetics. “Classical” apologetics assumed that people could put aside their preconceived philosophies and religions and meet for discussion in a neutral arena. According to this view facts are facts and there can be no debate about this. Either a thing happened or it didn’t. So, the Evidentialist apologist seeks to pile up historical evidence before the non-Christian so that over time the non-Christian will have to admit that the truths presented are true indeed. So, men like John Warwick Montgomery, Josh McDowell, and Norman Giesler write books that teach and model this approach to apologetics and thus evangelism.

The problem with this method of apologetics, according to Van Til and others, is that the whole system is flawed by the central fact that the approach is not found in the Bible. No one in the Bible sought to reason with non-believers; no one assumed that there was anywhere that men could go that would be neutral; and no one piled up “facts” to try to convince others that the truths of Scripture were or are true. Dr. Van Til, therefore, sought to come up with a thoroughly Biblical approach to apologetics that was grounded in the word of God and was also consistent with the Calvinist theology he understood to be the only consistently Biblical theology.

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