Published on October 15, 2020 by Steve West

P & R Publishing, 1998 | 800 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Steve West



This book is an indispensable resource for those who want to understand presuppositional apologetics and the thinking of Cornelius Van Til. Greg Bahnsen has brought together relevant excerpts from Van Til’s writings in a systematic way. He introduces the central ideas of presuppositionalism and provides a faithful and clear exposition of Van Til’s thought in a section-by-section framework.

The result is that the reader reads Bahnsen’s explanation and then Van Til’s primary source writing. Bahnsen balanced the readings and analysis so that it is helpful for both the beginner and the scholar. Due to the fact that Bahnsen is expositing Van Til’s thought and explaining the points Van Til makes in the selected readings, the following summary does not attempt to differentiate between Bahnsen’s words and Van Til’s.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic
Chapter 2 The Task of Apologetics
Chapter 3 A Simply Summary and Illustration
Chapter 4 The Epistemological Side of Apologetics
Chapter 5 The Apologetical Side of Epistemology
Chapter 6 The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief
Chapter 7 The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument
Chapter 8 Comparisons and Criticisms of Apologetical Method
Chapter 9 Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith




Chapter 1: An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic

According to 1 Peter 3:15, the prerequisite for apologetics is setting apart Christ as Lord. We are not to reason out of self-sufficient pride and intellectual autonomy. Wisdom is found in Christ alone. Christian apologists must presuppose the truth of God in everything: the conclusion of our apologetic is presupposed at its beginning.

We need to be self-conscious about our Christ-centered epistemology. Starting with God’s revelation is a far stronger foundation than a Christian’s own reasoning, and it is the strongest defense of the faith and strongest weapon against unbelieving thought. The trained apologist can show that every interpretation of life other than the Christian one is impossible.

Cornelius Van Til was a brilliant thinker who earned his PhD at Princeton University in philosophy. He integrated theology and philosophy and was the seminal thinker for presuppositional apologetics. He engaged in various philosophical and theological controversies, contending graciously but forcefully for the faith.

His influence on the generations of Reformed thinkers subsequent to him is enormous. Van Til gave himself wholly to Christ, surrendering himself to Christ’s Lordship. It was the Lordship of Christ that controlled his life and thought. As a Reformed theologian, Van Til made his apologetic method consistent with Reformed theology. His task was to bring every area of life into submission to Christ.


Chapter 2: The Task of Apologetics

An apologia is a reasoned defense in the face of accusations and challenges. Christians are called to provide defenses for their faith and refute the charges against the faith that are brought by unbelievers. Van Til recognized that every intellectual attack against Christianity stems from the heart and worldview. Christians need to refute the unbeliever’s worldview, and this can only be done by presupposing the truth of the Christian worldview. Reasoning is a spiritual activity; it cannot be autonomous.

The world tries to make the wisdom of God into foolishness, but the truth of God shows that it is the world that is in folly. Apologetics must take the whole of Christianity as a system and understand that without the truth of the Bible, nothing in the universe can make sense. It is necessary for Christians to use particular facts (e.g. scientific or historical), but facts require interpretation, and the Christian worldview is required for intelligible interpretations of reality. Apologetics requires study and learning.

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P & R Publishing, 1998 | 800 pages

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