Van Til and Singer: A Theological Interpretation of History -- By: William VanDoodewaard

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:1 (Jan 2011)
Article: Van Til and Singer: A Theological Interpretation of History
Author: William VanDoodewaard


Van Til and Singer:
A Theological Interpretation of History

William VanDoodewaard

How should history be written? The history of history writing shows a wide range of answers to the question. Every age, whether Old Testament and ancient paganism, New Testament and Greco-Roman, patristic, medieval, Reformation, post-Reformation, or secular modern to post-modern, presents a multitude of attempts. Some historians feel they are simply tracing the record of the past, yet undoubtedly the record presented by each bears witness to their conviction and belief. Most Christian philosophers, or theologians, of history have argued there ought to be something distinctively Christian about the best of history writing. Two notable, twentieth-century Reformed thinkers who pursued this conviction were Cornelius Van Til and C. Gregg Singer.

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)

Among varied attempts towards a Christian historiography, an intriguing effort is found in an approach rooted in Cornelius Van Til’s thought. Perhaps best known as a Christian apologist and theologian, he was instrumental in developing and promoting presuppositional, or covenant, apologetics and worldview thinking.1 These areas of

his thought continue to exert substantial influence in North America among confessional evangelicals, particularly of Presbyterian, Reformed, and Baptist backgrounds. Van Til’s theological roots lay in the American (Christian Reformed Church) Dutch Reformed pietism of the Dutch Secession Churches. His theological training started at Calvin Theological Seminary, blended with continued study at Princeton Theological Seminary, and matured in his association with Westminster Theological Seminary. Though his main calling in life was not developing a philosophy of history, his apologetic, especially his view of revelation and “concept of analogy,” created the foundation for what became a theological approach to history, dealing with “most if not all of the issues which are generally included within the scope of the usual work on the philosophy of history.”2

The Doctrine of Revelation

In order to understand Van Til’s stance on apologetics, philosophy, and history, it is crucial to understand his view of the doctrine of revelation. Van Til saw that the basic, underlying, universal truth is that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. “Man...is working on God’s estate. He is not himself the owner of anything, least of all himself.”3 “Those who still think of themselves as owners of themselves and...

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