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84 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound resource for Christian apologetics
The Defense of the Faith is Prof. Van Til's book about the subject for which he is most famous, presuppositional apologetics. I know many Christians wish to be able to defend their faith and to be "prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope" that they have (I Peter 3:15). But terms like "presuppositional" can be intimidating, so I...
Published on February 10, 2006 by B. C. Richards

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Muddled Epistemology
Let me articulate up front that I am a Christian; however, I am a Christian that does not hold to presuppositionalism. Let me further articulate that all the assertions and claims I will be leveling against Cornelius Van Til's book The Defense of the Faith will be substantiated in the comments section. That being said, Van til's tome is a thorough promulgation of...
Published 13 months ago by Stevie Jake

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84 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound resource for Christian apologetics, February 10, 2006
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This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
The Defense of the Faith is Prof. Van Til's book about the subject for which he is most famous, presuppositional apologetics. I know many Christians wish to be able to defend their faith and to be "prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope" that they have (I Peter 3:15). But terms like "presuppositional" can be intimidating, so I will try to explain what Dr. Van Til is communicating in this book, as well as to answer the "Empty Assertions" criticism of the reader, who, I am afraid, has not dealt very squarely with the position of Van Til.

"Presuppositional" means that the argument for the truth of the claims of Scripture focuses on the presuppositions, or assumptions, of non-Christian thought, and it is founded on and proceeds according to the presuppositions of Biblical, Christian thought. The most foundational idea of non-Christian thought is the idea of human autonomy. According to the Bible, the unbeliever's heart is naturally at war with God after the fall. God has revealed that He is the Creator, and that man, whether he wants to or not, must always ultimately face the fact the he is the creature, and is responsible to and dependent on God. He knows that this is true. However, after the fall, the unbeliever does not want to be responsible to or dependent on God. He suppresses the truth that he knows in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:21). He wants to determine for himself the significance and purpose of his life. He makes his own mind the ultimate criterion for all interpretation and for all activity. The claims of God are not satisfactory to him, so he rejects them. The mind of the creature sits in judgment over its Creator. Thus all human reasoning and interpretation is inescapably and fundamentally ethical by nature. Van Til's argument is that a truly Biblical apologetic must confront the unbeliever at this very point.

The result is that there is no intellectual or moral neutrality. The unbeliever is at war with his Creator, and his mind rejects the authority of God in favor of his own autonomy. The believer, on the other hand, has a new heart, and a new spirit put within in him by God, and he submits to God's Word and authority. The apologetic enterprise must be undertaken within one or the other of these two frameworks. All too often, however, Christians do not live up to the principle that is within them. They unconsciously approach the unbeliever as if he really were autonomous and in the position of sitting in judgment over God and His Word. They may adjust the presentation of the gospel truth to make it more palatable to the rebellious sinner. The result is that the unbeliever is never really challenged at the root of his problem.

As a concrete example, Van Til says that, for an unbeliever "Granted he allows that Christ actually arose from the grave, he will say that this proves nothing more than that something very unusual took place in the case of that man Jesus." This is because as humans we do not encounter any facts in isolation, but we interpret and assign meaning to all the facts that we see around us. The unbeliever always interprets the facts on the basis of his presupposition of autonomy. Van Til is saying that the unbeliever's ultimate problem is not an intellectual problem, but an ethical problem. Any apologetic endeavor that focuses exclusively on the intellectual differences between believers and unbelievers and does not confront the ethical differences, is not addressing the unbeliever's problem.

One reader has been dissatisfied with Van Til's approach. His criticism centers on Van Til's claim that all reasoning is circular reasoning. Smart people don't reason circularly: "The Bible is true because it says so." But we have to think carefully about the argument. If Van Til is right that every human is either in rebellion against God's authority or by grace has been transformed to be submissive to God's authority, then it is impossible to reason apart from one of these two frameworks or "presuppositions". Thus, all human reasoning cannot be anything but circular in the sense that as finite creatures we cannot engage in any intellectual activity in a vacuum, but always start with some foundation.

I can't believe that Van Til's point is too much of a stretch for people in the 21st century, when we look at the current climate of moral and epistemological relativism. It has been over 200 years now since Kant showed us that the human consciousness inescapably alters and shapes the reality that we encounter. The current epistemological and moral vacuum in Western culture is simply the consistent working out of non-Christian presuppositions. Of course, Van Til is arguing that mankind in fact cannot escape the knowledge of God that is within them and the fact that all human interpretation is derivative, not determinative. He is saying that as Christians, we should not assume and submit to the unbeliever's view of human autonomy and intellectual and ethical neutrality.

I think that this book is truly significant and profound, and that Christians really need to come to grips with its ideas in order to make a fully Biblical presentation of the truth that is faithful to God's Word. I will not pretend that this is an easy book to read. There are many important points that I think are very clear, and there are some points that I have not yet been able to understand myself. Dr. Van Til's writings are notoriously intimidating to lay people. If you are serious, it is well worth reading this book, and I think that there is enough that is perfectly clear to greatly benefit even those who are not as interested in the more esoteric portions. If you are interested in the content, but are afraid of the level, you may prefer something like John Frame's book "Apologetics to the Glory of God." Van Til's book is absolutely not written to convince unbelievers that they should become Christians. It is written to help Christians understand how they can "sanctify Christ as Lord" in their hearts in order to give a consistently Biblical defense of their faith that will truly challenge the unbeliever at the root of his problem. For all serious students of apologetics, this book is indispensable.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a response to the philosophy of despair!, October 10, 1999
This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
Van Til systematically analyzes the essential equivalence of thought in the arminiun view of salavation and the world's view of the autonomy of man. He further points out the conclusion of modern secular philosophers that if man is indeed "autonomous" then there is really no control other than chance/fate and he is not truly "autonomous" but a slave to chance....further, if at the mercy of chance he is left in despair. The presupposition of ultimate truth in God alone is not just preferrable but necessary for any cogent understanding of reality. The beginning of wisdom is with God...not man. Without God, there is no basis for any reason, only despair.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good presuppositional apologetics, November 27, 1999
This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
van til is one of the best presuppositionalists. this volume is an introductionto to his thought packed with clever quips. especially helpful is his emphasis that man cannot start from himself, entirely separated from supernatural revelation, and find and codify God. instead, man's very being is immutably dependent on God. reading in tandem with carl henry, gordon clark, and the simpler schaeffer help one to understand presuppositionalism and inevitably hone one's theology regardless of outlook.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consistent Calvinist Apologetics, May 8, 1998
This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
This is the book I personally consider to be THE masterwork of twentieth cetury thought on apologetics. Its only fault lies in the fact that it follows a mostly negative approach, critiquing contemporary evangelical apologetic methods. Van Til's appoach stresses the idea that arguing for the gospel must be based on faith, and not on shared presuppositions with the non-believer. He argues that the use of evidence merely persuades the non-believer that God MIGHT exist, which is what he already believes. Extremely procative and highly recommended for anyone with a background in philosophy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE Defense of the Faith, May 29, 2007
This review is from: Defense of the Faith (Paperback)
This is a profound and wonderful book. If I could split out the stars then I would give 5 stars for content but only 3 stars for writing and clarity, hence the averaged out 4 stars. In short, Van Til's apologetic approach will enable you to show why Christian Theism is the necessary precondition for doing this average and any average. In fact, Van Til goes so far to argue that Christian Theism is the necessary precondition for all knowledge, logic, ethics, and discussion. Far fetched? It may appear that way initially, but after studying Van Til's book I am convinced of his approach.

When you are engaged in an apologetic discussion with your atheist friend they assert, "God does not exist!" All too often both parties assume they agree on who god is from the outset and begin to argue accordingly. For example, the Christian is in agreement with the atheist that "allah" does not exist. Van Til argues that this, assuming both parties agree on what is being discussed, is not the right approach. It is first necessary to ask, "What type of god are we discussing?" This is why Van Til begins his book with theology, asking Who is god? Once who God is is settled, then Van Til moves to a discussion of Christian Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics. In each of these Van Til emphasizes the Creator-creature distinction, which is important and essential to all of his thinking and, I believe, appropriate Christian thinking. He then systematically moves through a Christian approach to apologetics, including the "point of contact" with the non-believer, which is the imago dei, "the problem of method", the place of authority and "reason" in the discussion, as well as a discussion on common grace, argument by presupposition and a closes with a discussion on several different Reformed views.

Van Til's opening four chapters is easily worth the cost of the book. His Creator-creature distinction and its affect on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics is beautiful. It's the sort of writing that says, "Now that makes sense! WOW! That makes so much more sense!" Van Til sheds a lot of light into the dark world of "metaphysics" and "epistemology". And, as should be expected, this is done by God's Truth.

Despite the genius of the book, I believe, there are short comings. One, Van Til's writing style. He is not always clear. Two, this may be due to my ignorance, but I wish he would spell out the implications a little more. I feel like he jumps a few steps to his conclusion with the average reader, like myself, missing important steps along the way. This doesn't nullify his overall outlook and approach, but it does take from the book. Again, could be my fault, but, I believe, the reader would do well to brush up on idealist philosophy and basic concepts before he delves into Van Til. Along these lines, if you are not already familiar with presuppositional apologetics and Van Til, then John Frame and Greg Bahnsen's works on Van Til's apologetic outlook are must readings.

All in all, this is a great book. It could be improved slightly by filling in some of the arguments and having a good editor rework some of the wording and providing footnotes for clarity, but this book is a classic and a must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Factuality apart from the Creator is no factuality, April 9, 2010
"Science is absolutely impossible on the non-Christian principle." What does the author mean with that assertion? Just suppose there is a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water. Desiring to get out of the water, he makes a ladder of water. He sets this ladder upon the water and against water and then attempts to climb out of the water.
So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man`s methodology based as it is upon the assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. So on what is he relying? On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance. So whence comes his certainty to master his theories and know what truth is? From chance!
It appears to the author that Christian theism which was first rejected because of its supposed authoritarian character, is the only position which gives human reason a field for successful operation and a method of true progress in knowledge. Why? Because the ground is solid and logic. The Christian belief is the only one which supports in its statements a world that can be investigated by the human mind, because this world was created with laws and methods that can be found and replicated by man.
So the author claims that only on the presupposition of Christian theism a valid science is possible. Any other presupposition is leading to a wrong way with sooner or later totally misleading conclusions and results of research. The philosophy is giving the interpretation of data.
Without the truth of Christianity, the author says, there would be no possibility of the testing of one hypothesis against another. Just on the basis of facts a testing is senseless, because brute facts, not created, not controlled by God are blind, mute facts. They have no discernible character, because character they can have only in an organized world obeying God given laws. Chance means chaos. Chaotic must be the facts if there is no God. Brute facts cannot constitute the reality which Christians and non-Christians know in common in order by it to test the hypothesis of the existence or the non-existence of God.
A scientist is able to formulate and discover only because he operates on secretly Christian premises while denying that faith. Is this called schizophrenic? Factuality apart from God is totally meaningless factuality. Men cannot escape God nor can they shut him out. If they attempt to think without him as their premise, they simply reintroduce his attributes in the form of miraculous potentialities and processes which reduce science to irrationalism and self-contradiction. Therefore modern science can replace religion, because it is the new religion, based on mythical presumptions. Here the myth of evolution which gives man the freedom of the compelling reality of God as creator.
The contradiction of modern science theory of evolution is that it proclaims the meaningless and chaos as its source but denies that its conclusions are not chaotic and not a matter of pure chance. The theory of evolution requires a belief that somehow all things arose out of chance, out of the fortuitous. Evolutionary science denies spontaneous generation as a fact but requires it in theory in order to account for the universe. This is the reason why so many put their hopes in finding evidence of life on another planet. Science this wants a universe of law and of causality without God and it would rather ascribe all the magnificent order of the universe to chaos rather than to God. Men will either presuppose God, or they will presuppose themselves as the basic reality of being.
The author concludes: "Now if our contention that the evolution-hypothesis is a part of an anti-theistic theory of reality is correct, then we must do away with every easy-going attitude." Why? Because their adherents will claim to have the only acceptable truth and wage war against those who oppose them. So far Van Til!
No good prospects. The lobby of the science is indeed conspicuous. Should they control society as modern priests and caretakers of truth? The author has written a disputatious and thought-provoking work, presumably condemned by modern scientists. Therefore you should read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Van Til's Self-Defense, April 13, 2013
Reformed systematic theology and a Reformed method of apologetics are intertwined. In a changing world where the Reformed faith is challenged both from within and from without, it is more important than ever to be equipped to return to a defense of the Reformed faith that is rooted in Reformed theology. This makes this annotated reprint of Van Til's Defense of the Faith timely.
I initially passed by this book largely because I had already read the third edition of the same book. This is a reprint of the entire first edition of the text with added explanatory notes by Dr. K. Scott Oliphint. What I had not realized was that the first edition of was substantially longer than subsequent editions because the first edition was written largely in order to defend Van Til's views against a string of critics connected with Calvin Theological Seminary. In many respects, this book is misnamed. Instead of a defense of the Christian faith, it contains primarily Van Til's defense of why he defended the faith in the way that he did.
Rather than presenting a full critical review of the book itself, I will point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of the book for understanding Van Til's method and how this book can help us think about apologetics in relation to the Reformed system of theology.
First, in some respects, this reader is undecided whether he likes better the fourth edition of the Defense of the Faith or one of the older and shorter versions of the same work. Dr. Oliphint's notes are extremely valuable in explaining terms, but Van Til's interaction with his critics reads as though the reader is overhearing parts of a conversation that has occurred behind closed doors. Other editions largely omit this material in an attempt to turn the book into a more positive statement of Reformed apologetics. In the full version, Van Til got off to a rocky start by beginning with a twenty-five page introduction which consists of little more than block quotations from his critics. The critics themselves are highly philosophical in their approach, which makes this one of Van Til's more complicated works. However, lest I run the risk of dissuading the reader from picking up this book, it is important to note that the original introduction makes the remaining structure of the book clearer than later editions do. In the first major section, Van Til rehashed the basic structure of his apologetic in order to add clarity in the face of opposition. In the second section, he reviewed this apologetic structure again by confronting his critics head on. The later omissions explain why the structure was confusing to me when I read the third edition of the book. These editions come across as presenting a conflict without a context. Another interesting feature of this work is that it is largely Van Til's own hand-selected compendium of his other major works, since he chose to defend himself largely by commenting upon what he had written already. This gives us a window into what he considered to be the most significant features of this method.
Second, this book is extremely valuable in clarifying many misconceptions that surround Van Til's method to the present day. For instance, Van Til consistently argued that the Christian's "point of contact" with the non-Christian resided in the fact that all men are created in the image of God and inescapably reveal their Creator. In this sense, they have an internal witness against themselves that the Triune God of the Bible created them. They "know him" through this internal witness, although the unregenerate will never acknowledge that this is the case. The non-Christian, whether he realizes it or not, presupposes that man is ultimate in determining the nature of reality, but because he is created in the image of God, he cannot live consistently with his principles. He does not know God truly because he is suppressing the knowledge of God that he has imprinted on his heart by nature. The Christian must show the non-Christian that any position that he holds will always be inconsistent because he has treated himself rather than the Triune God of Scripture as the ultimate first presupposition of his reasoning. The principles upon which he thinks are sinful and rebellious and he needs to repent and believe in Christ. This is what Van Til meant when he asserted that we must begin our thinking with God. The only two choices for an ultimate (and presupposed) first principle of reality, knowledge, and ethics are either the Triune God of Scripture or the idea that man is the measure of all things. This is what makes this approach "presuppositional."
In spite of this fact, a popular Reformed apologist asserted recently that beginning with God in our thinking is impossible because only God can begin thinking with God - therefore, I must begin thinking with myself. This speaker missed the fact that Van Til was not so much concerned with the manner in which we think as the principle upon which we ground the possibility of thinking itself. Van Til never taught that we cannot begin an apologetic conversation with a human subject rather than a divine subject. He wrote, "If then the human consciousness must, in the nature of the case, always be the proximate starting point, it remains true that God is always the most basic and therefore the ultimate or final reference point in human interpretation" (100). To this, Dr. Oliphint adds, "This point needs to be emphasized. Van Til affirms that the proximate starting point for all our thinking is, of necessity, the self. The apologetic point, however, is that the ultimate reference point with respect to predication is the triune God" (100, fn 31). Here, as in many cases, Van Til asserted the exact opposite of what he is accused of saying.
I have not yet read a critic of the basic tenets of Van Til's method who has given sufficient evidence that he has carefully understood that method. Most arguments against him are a straw-man of one kind or another. With Oliphint's help, this book has the potential to clear up several other misconceptions of the presuppositional approach. Examples include: To presuppose the Triune God of Scripture does not mean refusing to argue for the truth of the Christian faith. It means that without this presupposition, nothing else is (legitimately) intelligible. Also, reasoning within a circle (in this case the Christian world-view) is not the same thing as the fallacy of circular reasoning. Our view of the world is determined by our most fundamental (presuppositional) commitments. The Christian always presupposes the Triune God and the authority of his Word (though not perfectly in practice) and the non-Christian always presupposes that this same God does not exist and that He cannot speak to mankind (also imperfect in practice). These basic commitments determine what kind of system of thought we can hold to consistently. The heart of Van Til's method, that is so widely misunderstood even at present, is that the basic unconscious presupposition of the non-Christian rests upon sinking sand, while the believe alone stands upon solid rock. It is our goal, apologetically, to show him that his presupposition is hopelessly untenable and that ours is necessary. This is an ethical problem that requires redemption in Christ and it is not simply an intellectual difficulty. Though Van Til's writings can become clouded by philosophical terminology, this is the method that is essentially used every time the gospel is preached faithfully from a Reformed pulpit (read the book for more about this point).
Third, whatever readers think of Van Til's apologetic method, we should commend him for seeking to develop an approach that is self-consciously Reformed. He developed his apologetic from a classic Reformed systematic theology and his approach irreversibly dependent upon that Reformed system taken as a whole (see esp. chapter thirteen). In this writer's view, his position is the only one that is consistent with classic Reformed systematic theology. If Van Til teaches us anything, then it is that the manner in which we defend our faith must depend upon the content of the faith that we are defending: "Only in the Reformed faith is there an uncompromising statement of the main tenets of Christianity. All other statements are deformations. It is but to be expected that only in the Reformed faith will we find an uncompromising method of apologetics" (134. See also 273.). Later he added, "I seek to oppose Roman Catholicism and Arminianism in apologetics as I seek to oppose it in theology" (253. See also 299.). In a day where the system of Reformed theology is eroding in many instances, it will be a question as to whether or not Van Til's method can survive. Recent Reformed systematic theologies have, among other things, denied the imputation of Adam's sin, sought union with Greek Orthodoxy, radically restructured the very idea of systematic theology, or made systematic theology subservient to biblical theology. A Reformed system of apologetics will only be as strong as the Reformed system of theology upon which it is built. We cannot experience radical changes in our system of theology without radically changing our approach to everything. Van Til's work should cause us to take pause, not only as we decide how we should defend the faith, but as we decide what that faith is that we hope to defend.
Lastly, in light of the modern renaissance of studies on the doctrine of the Trinity, Van Til's method is explicitly and thoroughly Trinitarian. In contrast to other approaches to apologetics, the doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely essential to his apologetic method. In the seventeenth century, the Triunity of God was regarded as one of the principia, or first principles, of theology (Scripture is the other pricipium of Reformed theology). This says more than asserting that the Trinity is an essential doctrine. It means that the rest of the doctrines of the Reformed system rest upon the God who is Triune as a principle upon which every other doctrine rests. Over time, as the church began to argue for a generic conception of God from reason, the Trinity became something that was added later to the system of theology rather than standing as the very foundation of theology. Readers will need to consult a work such as Richard Muller's Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics to fill out the details on this point. However, it could be argued that Van Til presented the first genuine practical development on the Reformed doctrine of the Trinity since the high period of Reformed orthodoxy. This means that Van Til has a lot to say, not only to modern apologetics, but to contemporary theology.
(Published Previously in Puritan Reformed Journal)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life-Changing Approach, January 17, 2011
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This is the landmark work by Dr. Cornelius Van Til as far as Biblical apologetics. There is much to be said for the work in apologetics in the evidential approach and the men who have labored so fruitfully in that field. But as far as the Biblical 'method' is concerned or the 'theology' of apologetics as a discipline, Van Til's presuppositionalism has no equal in taking every thought captive to Christ, and showing how the Bible must be one's authority at the very outset of defending the faith.

Leading up to apologetics and then discussing it in length, the book is divided into 11 sections as follows:

1. Christian Theology
2. The Christian Philosophy of Reality
3. The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge
4. The Christian Philosophy of Behavior
5. Christian Apologetics (Point of Contact)
6. Christian Apologetics (The Problem of Method)
7. Christian Apologetics (Authority and Reason)
8. Common Grace and Scholasticism
9. Argument by Presupposition
10. The Defense of Christianity
11. Amsterdam and Old Princeton

The beginning (chapters 1-4) is a huge help into understanding the basic Christian worldview as a whole and the foundation from where Van Til develops his approach to apologetics. Then in chapters 5-7 he does a masterful job of contrasting the differing approaches to the discipline.

Chapter 9 is by far the most compelling treatise I have ever read on the subject of a truly Biblical approach to apologetics. It is here where Van Til makes his famous statement:

"Both Thomas Aquinas and Butler contend that men have done justice by the evidence if they conclude that God probably exists....I consider this a compromise of simple and fundamental Biblical truth. It is an insult to the living God to say that his revelation of himself so lacks in clairty that man, himself through and through revelation of God, does justice by it when he says that God probably exists.

The argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity is objectively valid. We should not tone down the validity of this argument to the probability level. The argument may be poorly stated, and may never be adequately stated. But in itself the argument is absolutely sound. Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold. It is not merely as reasonable as other positions, or a bit more reasonable than other positions; it alone is the natural and reasonable position for man to take." - p. 197

He goes on then to confirm over and over again the truth of his claim that Christianity alone (and no other system) can make sense of the world. In Chapter 10 he continues to contrast presuppositional apologetics with approaches less faithful to the Scriptures and gives an insightful dialogue between Mr. Black, Mr. White, and Mr. Grey.

In the concluding chapter he gives an account of other theologians and apologists and critiques where they were in line with Scriptures and where they departed in regard to Scriptural authority and apologetics.

Overall, while sometimes this book was a little tough to read in stretching the mind to think things through more adequately, I cannot but recommend this book with my highest recommendation to all believers (because truly we are all called upon to give a defense of the faith - 1 Pet. 3:15-16).

May the Lord Christ bless you in your studies!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bible-based Defense of the Faith: RE, February 26, 2010
Cornelius Van Til was born in 1895, in the Netherlands and at the age of ten his family moved to Indiana. Later Van Til earned a Th.M. and a Ph.D. "The Defense of the Faith" is part of Van Til's groundbreaking presuppositional apologetic method. This volume is essential for any Christian philosopher and apologist.

In this treatise, the author aims to press the most scripturally faithful and effectual apologetic method to defend the Faith and present the Triune God to the lost. Van Til distinguishes his system from that of RCC, neo-orthodoxy of Barth, and others.

Van Til writes: "The whole problem of knowledge has constantly been that of bringing the one and the many together. When man looks about him and within him, he sees that there is a great variety of facts. The question that comes up at once is whether there is any unity in this variety, whether there is one principle in accordance with which all these many things appear and occur. All non-Christian thought, if it has utilized the idea of a supra-mundane existence at all, has used this supra-mundane existence as furnishing only the unity or the a priori aspect of knowledge, while it has maintained that the a posteriori aspect of knowledge is something that is furnished by the universe."

He adds for one to have any knowledge that "... there must be in God an absolute system of knowledge" (p 61).

Furthermore he presses the necessity of scripture: "But I do, of course, confess that what Scripture teaches may properly be spoken of as a system of truth. God identifies the Scriptures as his Word. And he himself, as he tells us, exists as an internally self-coherent being. His revelation of himself to man cannot be anything but internally coherent" (p. 205).

Many have enthusiastically embraced his forceful apologetic as he advocates: "The natural man must be blasted out of his hideouts... the Reformed apologist throws down the gauntlet and challenges his opponent to a duel of life and death from the start."

Van Til defines some important terms: "Philosophy, as usually defined, deals with a theory of reality, with a theory of knowledge, and with a theory of ethics. That is to say philosophies usually undertake to present a life and world view. They deal not only with that which man can directly experience by means of his senses but also, and ofttimes especially, with the presuppositions of experience. In short, they deal with that which Christian theology speaks of as God. On the other hand Christian theology deals not only with God; it deals also with the world.... Philosophy and science deal more especially with man in his relation to the cosmos and theology deals more especially with man in his relation to God. But this is only a matter of degree."

Van Til taught, inspired, and mentored many erudite scholars. Quotes from some of the brightest:

William Edgar states: "Van Til showed the necessity of knowing God as a basis for knowing anything at all."

John Frame opines: "Van Til's apologetics is essentially simple, however complicated its elaborations. It makes two basic assertions: (1) that human beings are obligated to presuppose God in all of their thinking, and (2) that unbelievers resist this obligation in every aspect of thought and life." (Westminster Theological Journal Vol. 47, 1985)

K. Scott Oliphint asserts: "Van Til, though speaking in another context, approves of all kinds of reasoning based on the priority of revelation."

Greg Bahnsen, a popular Van Tilian scholar and the man "atheists feared the most," stated that "For Van Til, like Augustine, reason is not the platform (precondition) for faith, but vice versa" (Greg L Bahnsen, "Van Til's Apologetic," p. 54).

Bahnsen adjoins: "It could be said that Van Til has labored to rid our thinking about apologetics, theology, philosophy, and evangelism of misleading dichotomies between them - polarizations that serve to overlook the ethically qualified character of man's every intellectual ability and effort. There are to be no other gods before the face of the Lord (according to the first commandment, Ex. 20:3), no other authorities over our thinking that detract from submission to the revealed word of God. The Lord's claim upon us, even upon our thinking and reasoning, is absolute and unchallengeable - just because He is the Lord (Rom. 3:4; 9:20; 11:33-34). Therefore, "take heed lest there shall be anyone who robs you by means of his philosophy, even vain deceit, which is after the tradition of men, after the rudimentary principles of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8). In that light, we must not artificially separate positive statement (theology) from its defense (apologetics), or separate the appeal for mental change (evangelism) from the intellectual reason for such change (apologetics), or separate general reflection upon conceptual foundations, (philosophy) from the particular content of Christian concepts (theology, apologetics). Van Til rejects each of these dichotomies in order that our thinking and scholarship will not be divided into two phases, the first being autonomous and religiously neutral, and the second being submissive to Christ and biblically faithful. For Van Til, like Augustine, reason is not the platform (precondition) for faith, but vice versa" ("Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis," p. 54)
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases
(Psalms 115:3).

As a PA I also would add: A certain and simple argument for the existence of God is: Without God one cannot account for anything. God is the ground and source for the laws of logic, moral law, mathematics, and everything else in the cosmos. This is an argument that is absolutely true. The truth is simple and it is powerful. One must employ changeless universal truths when one assesses, ponders, and communicates things and their meaning in our world. Only God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, can ground immutable universals.

The great thing about employing this argument is that it grows in power when the unbeliever attacks it. The argument grows in force because the unbeliever must use the laws of logic to make his intellectual challenge. These laws of thought require God. For God alone supplies the pre-essential environment for the laws of logic. Thus every time an unbeliever rationally attacks theism he is actually demonstrating that God lives. Without God (He alone can ground the laws of logic) he cannot make any rational assertion.

The old science-fiction movie that has a huge electric monster on the loose illustrates this point. The monster in this thriller grows larger and stronger every time someone uses a weapon in attempting to kill it. The monster is ready to take over America, and the President orders the army to hit it with an atomic bomb. The troops launch the bomb and as the mushroom cloud slowly starts to dissipate, when the smoke clears, they are stunned by the horror of horrors: the energy monster survived. Not only does the monster survive, he now is ten times larger. The energy monster absorbed the massive energy from the bomb. It did not get weaker, but grew in size and strength. Similarly, the unbeliever will attempt to fire intellectual weapons at this "argument from the impossibility of the contrary"(Bahnsen). Nevertheless, all their attacks will only be consumed by the truth, while the defense of the truth grows stronger and larger. There is nothing a skeptic can assert without ultimately relying on theism, since God alone provides the pre-essential environment for the laws of logic that must be utilized in their attacks. Therefore the unbeliever's argument will always presuppose God because the unbeliever cannot supply the preconditions for the non-physical, unchanging, universal and atemporal laws of logic (God is non-physical, unchanging, universal in power and reach, and atemporal). The triune God is the preexisting foundation for all debate, even a debate over the existence of God.

Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it... Therefore let all the house of Israel know ASSUREDLY that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:24 & 36).
God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contrary
Presuppositional Apologetics Examines Mormonism: How Van Til's Apologetic Refutes Mormon Theology
One Way to God: Christian Philosophy and Presuppositional Apologetics Examine World ReligionsThere Are Moral Absolutes: How to Be Absolutely Sure That Christianity Alone Supplies

Also see work by James Anderson, Michael Butler, Don Collect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) was a Calvinist philosopher and theologian, and perhaps the leading Christian exponent of "presuppositional" apologetics. He taught at Westminster Theological Seminary for more than 40 years, and was one of the leaders in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In this 1955 book (revised and abridged in 1963 and 1967), Van Til argues that "the traditional method of presenting Christ to men, as developed chiefly by Roman Catholic theologians, does compromise him. In Roman Catholic apologetics the natural man is not challenged to make his every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The natural man is merely asked to ADD the wisdom and work of Christ to that which man has in and of himself."

He argues, "without the light of Christianity it is as little possible for man to have the correct view about himself and the world as it is to have the true view about God," later adding, "It is therefore impossible to appeal to the intellectual and moral nature of men, as men themselves interpret this nature, and say that it must judge of the credibility and evidence of revelation. For if this is done, we are virtually telling the natural man to accept just so much and no more of Christianity as, with his perverted concept of human nature, he cares to accept." He states, "The natural man knows as bottom that he is the creature of God.... But he suppresses his knowledge of himself as he truly is. He is the man with the iron mask. A true method of apologetics must seek to tear off that iron mask." He summarizes, "The traditional method (of apologetics) compromises the Biblical doctrine of God and his relation to his revelation to man by not clearly insisting that man must not seek to determine the nature of God, otherwise than from his revelation."

Van Til admits that "common grace" enables men such as scientists to operate, but asserts, "If men will not repent and accept Christianity then they will still contribute to the structure of science. But then their contributions will be in spite of themselves as ethically responsible beings." He also admits that "evangelical" preaching sometimes results in conversion. "(E)very Evangelical, as a sincere Christian is at heart a Calvinist.... We are happy and thankful, of course, for the work of witnessing done by Evangelicals. We are happy because of the fact that, in spite of their inconsistency in presenting the Christian testimony, something, often much, of the truth of the gospal shines through unto men, and they are saved."

For anyone interested in Van Til, presuppositional apologetics, christian apologetics in general, or Calvinist philosophy, this book is "MUST READING."
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Defense of the Faith
Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til (Paperback - Dec. 1967)
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