- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: P & R Publishing; 2 edition (November 5, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0875527892
- ISBN-13: 978-0875527895
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Introduction to Systematic Theology: Prolegomena and the Doctrines of Revelation, Scripture, and God 2nd Edition
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"One of Van Til's two or three most important books, this is certainly a must-read for anyone who is trying to understand Van Til today. He challenges Christians to think in a distinctively biblical way. That biblical way opposes and challenges all religions and secular philosophies, all ideologies that place the ultimate source of truth and value in human beings rather than in God. Thoroughly re-edited, with an excellent introduction by William Edgar." --John M. Frame
"The copious explanatory notes by Dr. Edgar are invariably helpful and will serve to enhance the singular value of this great work for the present and coming generations." --Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
About the Author
Cornelius Van Til (18951987) was born in Grootegast, the Netherlands, and immigrated with his family to America in 1905. He attended Calvin College and Calvin Seminary before completing his studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University with the ThM and PhD degrees.
Drawn to the pastorate, Van Til spent one year in the ministry before taking a leave of absence to teach apologetics at Princeton Seminary. When the seminary reorganized, he was persuaded to join the faculty of the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He remained there as professor of apologetics until his retirement in 1975.
Van Til wrote more than twenty books, in addition to more than thirty syllabi. Among his best-known titles are The Defense of the Faith, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, and An Introduction to Systematic Theology.
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All of the six volumes in this "Defense of the Faith" series are student syllabi; thus, they may or may not be polished "books," unlike Van Til's other works. In the Preface to this 1971 work, Van Til indicates, "The first 'edition' of this syllabus appeared more than thirty-five years ago. It title then was: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Since then much has happened in theology. Yet the old syllabus is now made available again in a practically unaltered form. The author has dealt with the main developments of recent theology in other writings. The most important of these is that of neo-orthodoxy." He adds, "The present syllabus has an apologetic intent running through it. A Reformed theology needs to be supplemented by a Reformed method of apologetics.... The non-Christian faith as a whole, as a unit, must be set over against the non-Christian faith as a whole. Piecemeal apologetics is inadequate, especially for our time."
Van Til makes the interesting statement, "it is true that in the study of matters of the laboratories and the field, the Bible is only indirectly concerned. We do not go to the Bible itself for the facts with which we deal. On the other hand, it is true of theology that it gets its facts about God almost exclusively from the Bible. We say almost exclusively, because we also learn about God from nature. Hence we must say that it is only a matter of emphasis. We do not limit ourselves to the Bible when we study anything else." Later on, he admits, "Many non-Christians have been great scientists. Often non-Christians have a better knowledge of the things of this world than Christians have." However, he adds, "this is true IN SPITE OF their immanentistic view of life and because of the fact that they cannot help but work with the 'borrowed capital' of Christianity."
He says, "It is true that all false religions have been 'religions of authority.' ... This authority that other religions have spoken of, however, is of a different nature from the authority of Christianity.... What really ought to be done, therefore, is to set the religion of Christianity over against the other religions in order to say that only Christianity is the religion of authority. At the same time it should be made clear that only Christianity is the religion of the Spirit."
This entire series is of great interest to students of Van Til, presuppositional apologetics, Calvinist philosophy, or Christian apologetics in general.
Van Til argues that a skilled apologist is a skilled Theologian first and foremost, and he exhorts pastors to take this role seriously by preaching sound doctrine. Van Til refuses to isolate Apologetics from the context of the local church, which is unfortunately a popular modern trend; nor does he separate evangelism from Apologetics.
"It should not be forgotten in this connection that the minister's duty is increasingly that of an apologist for Christianity. The general level of education is much higher than it has ever been. Many young people hear of evolution in the high schools and in the college where their fathers never heard of it except as far as a distant something. If the minister would be able to help his young people, he must be a good apologete, and he cannot be a good apologete unless he is a good systematic theologian" (pg. 24).
Many of the key elements of Van Til's apologetic methodology presented such as the Creator-creature distinction and God's Immutability have been denied by those who claim to be his successors in presupposition Apologetics (e.g. John Frame & K. Scott Oliphint), however Van Til did not tinker with the classical doctrine of God as they did, so they actually undermine Van Til's methodology rather than preserve it. Van Til presents a robust defense of the classical doctrine of God, closely following Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics (he cites Bavinck repeatedly throughout this book along with John Calvin) and nowhere argued for "covenantal attributes". Van Til clearly affirmed that God did not change in any way when He created the universe. Van Til does emphasize the importance of covenant theology and federal headship in Adam vs. federal headship in Christ, but not in the sense that K. Scott Oliphint advances in his position of Covenantal Apologetics which assumes a modified doctrine of God.
I disagree with Van Til's statement of God being 1 person, in the context he was affirming the doctrine of Divine Simplicity and he had responded to Sabellianism a few pages prior to the statement, so he wasn't trying to deny that there are three subsistances. I don't think his statement gave any more clarity to explaining the doctrine of the Trinity, and it would have been better if he hadn't made that statement which has caused confusion. You can read his chapter on the Trinity (chapter 17) for more details where he discusses the statement in the context of his overview of the doctrine of the Trinity.