Theological Decline in Christian Institutions and the Value of Van Til’s Epistemology -- By: Samuel T. Logan, Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 57:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Theological Decline in Christian Institutions and the Value of Van Til’s Epistemology
Author: Samuel T. Logan, Jr.


Theological Decline in Christian Institutions and the Value of Van Til’s Epistemology

Samuel T. Logan, Jr.

The purpose of Westminster Theological Seminary, announced J. Gresham Machen at the opening convocation of this school on September 25, 1929, is to produce “specialists in the Bible.” Other schools may have other purposes, some of which may be, in their own ways, significant, but this school would exist to train servants of God to know and to live the authoritative Word of God.

Machen’s vision was shared by the other members of that first faculty, and in the sixty-five years that have elapsed since that opening convocation, the vision has remained constant. From Machen to the present, the commitment has been to affirm in teaching and living the fact that the Bible is true in all that it says.

But setting a vision is one thing; accomplishing and maintaining that vision in a faithful, consistent manner is quite another. And when the object of that vision, in this case Scripture, is under such constant assault—frequently from those who claim to be its friends—individuals and institutions need the firmest of theological foundations in order to make certain that the purity of the vision is maintained inviolable.

Historically, the vision set by Machen has been, in one way or another, claimed by any number of theological institutions. Yet over the years, most of those institutions have so qualified or compromised their understanding of Scripture that the original “visionaries” would hardly recognize those institutions today. The purpose of this article is to suggest how that process occurred in three such institutions and then to indicate why the legacy of Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Theological Seminary is one of the strongest bulwarks we—or any institution—could have in seeking to maintain a view of the authority of God’s word which is commensurate with the view Scripture takes of itself. In other words, on-going, faithful training of specialists in the Bible who take the Bible to be all that it claims for itself must be built on just the kind of epistemological foundation Van Til provided. This is my thesis.

In defense of this thesis, I will first examine in some detail the history of Christ’s College, Cambridge (the first English-speaking Reformed theological college), tracing its rapid decline from Puritan orthodoxy to Latitudinarian heterodoxy. I will then briefly trace

the theological links between Christ’s College and Harvard College (the first American Reformed theological college), showing how the theological changes at the former influenced similar changes at the latter. I will next mention para...

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