Cornelius Van Til: The Methodological Objective of a Biblical Apologetics -- By: Henry Krabbendam

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 57:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Cornelius Van Til: The Methodological Objective of a Biblical Apologetics
Author: Henry Krabbendam


Cornelius Van Til:
The Methodological Objective of a Biblical Apologetics

Henry Krabbendam

I. Introduction

It was Dr. Cornelius Van Til who in 1960 introduced me to the discipline of Christian Apologetics. For that I owe him a debt of gratitude. However, this gratitude extends to more than just the formal introduction to that discipline. The content of his apologetic system, specifically three elements of that system, made an indelible impression. The first one was his emphasis upon the need for a presuppositional approach. I came to embrace that as biblical. The second one was his introduction of the Trinity as the ontological framework for all of created reality. I came to recognize that as foundational. The third one was his analysis of apostate thought as dialectic, gravitating toward pure rationalism, pure irrationalism, or a combination of the two. I came to see that as incisive.

All this is not to say that Van Til has spoken the final apologetic word so as to exclude the need for any expansion, or even revision, of his thinking. In fact, there seem to be two areas in Van Til’s apologetics that could stand revision, coupled with criticism and redirection. I have become persuaded in the last two decades that his construct of analogical thinking is philosophically speculative and his notion of absolute theistic proof fraught with problems. In addition to that, there seems to be room for expansion, hand in hand with refinement and adjustment, in the very areas that I have come to appreciate, the presuppositional nature of a biblical apologetics, the pivotal significance of the Trinity, and the ravages of the continuity-discontinuity dialectic.

It was quite tempting to tackle both “projects” in this paper. In fact, the original draft endeavored to do just that. But it proved to be too ambitious in view of the limited space allotted to me. So I decided to focus my attention upon what I regard as Van Til’s major contributions. The analysis of his concepts of analogical thinking and theistic proof will have to wait another day. In the expansion that I intend to suggest, I am guided by what I now believe to be a major omission in apologetic thought. No Christian apologetics that I am aware of espouses a method that consciously aims at repentance. Indeed, it seems that a call to repentance would be out of place in the various types of apologetics

that have been practiced in the church. Van Til, and one other apologist, mention the word in a number of instances. But even they do not incorporate it as the expressed methodological goal of their own apologetic strategy!1

All this see...

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