Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 42:1 (Fall 1979) p. 198
Reviews Of Books
William White, Jr.: Van Til—Defender of the Faith. Nashville and New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979. 233. paper, $4.95.
This pleasant, cheerful book will bring great joy to all of us who have known and loved Cornelius Van Til. It presents our Van Til, the humble, kindly servant of Jesus. Many of his reminiscences are gathered here—the klompen, the catechism training, the Indiana farm, Jellema, Vos and Machen, the tugging of his heart between academics and the pastorate, between the Machen reformation and the Christian Reformed heartland, between Philadelphia and Spring Lake. And there’s the Clark case, travels abroad and so on. The personal portrait is authentic and inspiring. Here is Van Til, too humble and reticent to intrude readily into the theological wars of the ‘20s and ‘30s, the family man, the evangelist, the hospital visitor, the homespun story teller. Here is a good selection of Van Til’s humor.
All of these things are well-known to us, his students, colleagues and friends. Unfortunately, Van Til’s warm and winsome godliness is not as well-known to the general public as it ought to be. His writings are often difficult, academic, and (necessarily—for he is an apologist) highly polemical. When readers of his books come to know the man, they often react as White describes at one point in the book:
We can’t believe it. From his books we had the idea he was a Samson, smiting hip and thigh those who disagreed with him. Instead we found him as meek as Mary’s little lamb, as well as gracious, humble and kind. (166)
This “authorized biography” is the first book testifying to these aspects of Van Til’s character; on the whole, it does that job very well. White deserves the profound gratefulness of the Christian community.
William White began to study under Van Til in the mid-1950’s and has been planning this biography since that time. He has also studied and taught Semitics and has published many articles in that field. Most recently he has defended, in articles and a book with David Estrada, José O’Callaghan’s identification of certain Qumran materials as first century New Testament fragments. The back cover of the Van Til book tells us that White is now a “consulting editor in biomedical sciences and communica-
WTJ 42:1 (Fall 1979) p. 199
tions.” Quite a range of interests! One is always a bit surprised at each turn in White’s career. I confess to some surprise at the tone of this book, too. White is no mean polemicist himself, and upon opening the book I expected some of his own “smiting hip and thigh.” But the book is so gentle! In more cynical moods I tend to attribute the gentl...
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