Quill and writing

Van Til Apologetic Chapter 2 – The Task of Apologetics

2.1a According to VT, apologetics involves a ‘clash of worldviews’.  Why is this preferable to piece-meal discussion of isolated facts?

One of the distinctive insights that Van Til has given to presuppositional apologetics is that every line of reasoning that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and every kind of objection or challenge to the faith that is raised by unbelievers, arises from an attitude of the heart and within the intellectual context of a world-and-life view. Everybody thinks and reasons in terms of a broad and fundamental understanding of the nature of reality, of how we know what we know, of how we should live our lives. This philosophy or outlook is “presupposed” by everything the unbeliever (or believer) says; it is the implicit background that gives meaning to the claims and inferences drawn by people. For this reason, every apologetic encounter is ultimately a conflict of worldviews or fundamental perspectives (whether this is explicitly mentioned or not). The Christian must not only recognize this for the purpose of developing and responding to arguments with an unbeliever, but also be aware that the particular claims which the apologist defends are understood within the context of the entire system of the doctrine revealed by God in the Scriptures. It is this entire underlying worldview that is being defended, even when we answer a more narrow, particular attack. We cannot talk about everything at once, of course, but the specific matters about which we argue with the unbeliever are always understood and defined within the broader framework of God’s full revelation [VT p30]

2.1b Is argumentation necessarily contentious?

Reasoning is not an unspiritual activity, and argument does not mean personal contentiousness. There is a use of the mind and scholarly procedures which is indeed proud and ungodly – “walking in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18). Nevertheless, Paul just as clearly affirms “you did not so learn Jesus” (vs. 20). Christians have been renewed in the spirit of their minds (vs. 23; cf. Colossians 3:10) and granted repentance “unto the knowledge of the truth” 1 Corinthians 2:25). “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), in light of which we seek to develop a philosophy that is not patterned after worldly thinking and human traditions, but rather after Christ, “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited” (Colossians 2:3, 8). Reasoning in this manner is an expression of true spirituality and godliness, and obedient response to God’s requirement that in “whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). God does not want our minds eradicated but transformed (Romans 12:2). [VT p31]

2.2a What caution does Bahnsen (& VT) draw our attention to on p46?  What’s the danger?

We are to be cautious of compartmentalising our thinking.  There is ever a danger IN EVERY ACADEMIC ENDEAVOUR that our thinking is not SYSTEMATIC.  We ought properly to see that apologetics represents a particular practical application of Scripture to the claims & discourse of the unbeliever.  However, what is said in response may well touch on other aspects of God’s truth & be pertinent to related endeavours.

2.2b Van Til commends a ‘holistic’ approach to evangelism, philosophy, theology & apologetics. What subtle but serious flaws marked Warfield & Dooyeweerd & Schaeffer’s teachings in relation to apologetics?

Thus we must be wary of not driving a wedge too deeply between say, apologetics & philosophy (as did Dooyeweerd), apologetics & evangelism (as did Schaeffer & Kuyper), apologetics & theology (as did Warfield).

2.3 Many academic theologians decry Van Til’s presuppositionalism as ‘Fideism’.  Why is this not so?

Fideism asserts that religious truth is not amenable to reason or that it is supra-reasonable.  This is NOT what Van Til taught.  On the contrary, Van Til affirmed the certainty of Biblical truth & the confident assurance of the believer.  We are promised by Christ, ‘You shall know the Truth & the Truth shall set you free’ (Jn 8:32).  Rather, Van Til affirmed that ALL men inherently know but SUPPRESS the truth.  Absolute proof of the truthfulness of Scripture/Christianity is therefore INDIRECT, i.e. it follows from the impossibility of the contrary!  Van Til wrote, “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.” [VT p 74]

Steve Layfield – September 2018