Though he might not be high on your list of great Christian thinkers you’d like to understand better, Cornelius Van Til turns out to be very high on the list of Christian thinkers who have influenced generations of other Christian thinkers, scholars and leaders — including those best known for laying the foundations of what we call “Christian Reconstruction.”
Let’s face it, we might not have presuppositional apologetics — a term Van Til did not invent but which he did accept — if Van Til had not shared with the world his deeply held conviction that all defense of the Christian faith must begin with the assumption — the irrefutable premise — that the Holy Scriptures are the infallible, inspired Word of God, and that the historic, orthodox Christian faith is true. Therefore, everything that contradicts the Scriptures and is contrary to what the historic Christian faith teaches about God and about the created universe (what we call “reality”) is false. More than false, it is impossible.
His most famous quote is probably this one:
The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks on everything.
Dr. K. Scott Oliphint teaches apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. Cornelius Van Til was one of his professors. He got to know Dr. Van Til personally in a unique way. Spoiler non-alert: I’m not going to tell you how he got to know Dr. Van Til. I’ll let Oliphint tell you that.
Dr. Oliphint gave a talk in January 2016 at Branch of Hope Presbyterian Church on “understanding” Cornelius Val Til.
Undertanding Van Til… Now, THAT is a tall order!
Still, if there is anyone that can help you make sense not only of this lovable Dutch philosopher who single-handedly turned the apologetics world upside-down, but also of the whole realm of Christian doctrine that calls on EVERY Christian to be ready to defend his faith and proclaim the truth of it –“giving a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15) — it is Dr. K. Scott Oliphint.
Here he is, speaking candidly and cordially about Cornelius Van Til.
Incidentally, Dr. Oliphint would like you to stop calling it “presuppositional” apologetics: too much philosophical baggage. Instead, he would rather you use a term he coined for this ancient Christian discipline: covenantal apologetics.