Published on June 17, 2021 by Steve West

P&R Publishing, 1995 | 480 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

About the Author

John Frame is a Christian scholar who has written numerous important books in the areas of theology, philosophy, apologetics, and ethics.


This book is an exposition, explanation, and critical analysis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til. Frame is a sympathetic supporter of Van Til and a presuppositional apologist, but he is willing to disagree with Van Til at various points. This is a very interesting book from both an academic and personal standpoint.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Introductory Considerations

  1. Starting Point
  2. Van Til’s Life and Character
  3. Van Til’s Place in History

Part 2: The Metaphysics of Knowledge

  1. God: Self-Contained Fullness and Absolute Personality
  2. The Trinity
  3. The Sovereignty of God
  4. Analogical Knowledge
  5. The Clark Controversy
  6. Revelation
  7. Presuppositions
  8. The Primacy of the Intellect
  9. Logic
  10. The Analogical System
  11. Evidence

Part 3: The Ethics of Knowledge

  1. Antithesis
  2. Common Grace
  3. Rationalism and Irrationalism

Part 4: The Argument for Christianity

  1. The Traditional Method: The Church Fathers
  2. The Traditional Method: Thomas Aquinas
  3. The Traditional Method: Joseph Butler
  4. The Traditional Method: Edward J. Carnell
  5. Spiral Argument
  6. Reasoning by Presupposition
  7. Apologetics in Action

Part 5: Van Til as Critic

  1. Greek Philosophy and Scholasticism
  2. Immanuel Kant and Karl Barth
  3. Herman Dooyeweerd

Part 6: Conclusions

  1. Van Til’s Successors
  2. Van Til and Our Future


Part 1: Introductory Considerations

This book is designed to offer an analysis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til that combines sympathy, comprehensiveness, and critical analysis. Some have been sympathetic supporters whereas others have tried to debunk his thinking; neither have provided much helpful critical analysis. The kind of analysis that is needed is one that takes the system as a whole but looks at its details. Van Til was both a scholar and a movement leader. Often those who follow movement leaders cultivate an insider-outsider approach where they uncritically embrace the teachings of their leader and see those who disagree with them as enemies.

Van Til would want his thinking to be challenged and reformed by Scripture, and he welcomed biblically and theologically informed critiques of his work. However, not all of his disciples have allowed their master to be criticized. Frame found some of Van Til’s graduate courses to be like movement boot camps, where those who disagreed with presuppositionalism could be written off as Arminians or simply dismissed. Frame was allowed to teach courses with Van Til’s consent, but they were not close personal friends and Frame was always a bit on the margins of the pure presuppositionalists.

Van Til was the son of a Dutch farmer and attended Calvin College. His Ph.D. in Philosophy was from Princeton University. Amongst other theological influences, he learned from Berkhof, Kuyper, and Herman Bavinck. He learned that non-Christian worldviews were antithetical to the worldview of Scripture. Van Til served in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and taught at Westminster Theological Seminary. Over his career, he published voluminously, but he also put much work into teaching and helping his students. He had an incredible mind and encyclopedic knowledge in philosophy and theology, but many have found him opaque and hard to understand. . . .

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P&R Publishing, 1995 | 480 pages

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