Can One Be Both A Dispensational And “Covenantal” Apologist? -- By: Michael P. Riley

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 21:0 (NA 2016)
Article: Can One Be Both A Dispensational And “Covenantal” Apologist?
Author: Michael P. Riley

Can One Be Both A Dispensational And “Covenantal” Apologist?

Michael P. Riley1


K. Scott Oliphint’s recent volume on apologetics is, on its own merits, a noteworthy and useful work.2 Its importance does not rest in its novelty, and that by design. Oliphint acknowledges in his introduction that “this book will…translate the language, concepts, and ideas set forth in [Cornelius] Van Til’s Reformed apologetic into language, terms, and concepts that are more accessible.”3 While not an analysis of Van Til’s thought per se, the book everywhere assumes the validity of Van Til’s apologetic and seeks to show how it might be employed in a contemporary defense of the faith.

For such reasons, Covenantal Apologetics should take its place among the most useful of the numerous introductions to Van Til’s apologetic.4 Van Til is notoriously challenging to understand and this for a variety of reasons: his employment of the now-unfamiliar language of absolute idealism, the often unpredictable organization of his writings, and, not least, his own profundity. For these reasons, most people are helped if they enter the study of Van Til with a tour guide, and Oliphint’s work ably fills that role.

To label Oliphint’s work an introduction to Van Til should not be taken as implying that it contributes nothing original to the discussion of apologetics. If in nothing else, Covenantal Apologetics differs from other Van Tilian books by shifting emphasis from meta-apologetics (namely, a defense of Van Til’s methodology) to actual apologetics (employing Van Til’s method in the defense of the Christian faith). This is a welcome and needed move, as far too often Van Tilian apologists seem to find it necessary to spend more time debunking traditional theistic proofs than demonstrating the positive use of their own approach. In addition to this virtue, Oliphint submits a handful of other

significant original ideas in Covenantal Apologetics. Chief among these is a distinction between proof and persuasion in apologetics (and the priority of the latter) and his ten tenets of apologetics.5 These merit their own evaluation.

But the most obvious original proposal of Oliphint’s work is found in the title itself—his advocacy of the term covenantal apologetics as a proper and even preferred title for Van Til’s apologetic method. Anyone with even ...

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