Nov 25

The History and Nature of Apologetics, by Cornelius VanTil ★★★★

I would have given this lecture series five stars, except that the recording is at points quite awful, making the lecture unable to be understood. The last two lectures were incomprehensi ble. With presuppositional apologetics being the hallmark of VanTillian thinking, I would have thought that he would have belabored the use of the word “presuppositional”. I think he used that word just several times. I would have thought that he would have come down hard on Francis Schaeffer, as many of VanTil’s disciples tend to rip Schaeffer to shreds, yet VanTil gives Schaeffer the highest complements in this lecture series. Schaeffer also tends to stray from strict presuppositionalism in his apologetics, which leaves me wondering if VanTil wouldn’t have give more leeway than the “radical” VanTillians of today. This series was obtained for free on UTunesU from Westminster Theological Seminary. It is six one-hour lectures long. VanTil can be a challenge to read, and often his writings seem to not make sense, or seem to leave VanTil unclear as to what he’s saying. His lectures are extremely easy to listen to though often quite thick. VanTil develops the idea that our theology gives way to a clear method of apologetics. Since all men are fallen and logic in a fallen mind unreliable, the only reliability must start from God himself, as given in His statements to man, as found in Scripture. Thus, Scripture must first be presumed, though evidence in the world can substantiate the claims of Scripture. I don’t think Schaeffer would have objected to this, though his emphasis would have been on the evidence that substantiates the claims of Scripture. VanTil must be contended with and taken seriously for anybody speaking of Christ in the marketplace. This is not a bad place to start through this lecture series.


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2 Responses to “The History and Nature of Apologetics”

  1. Onkel Dennis says:

    Nuances aside, Schaeffer is very much in the presuppositional apologetics camp, and it is no surprise that someone as capable as Van Til would recognize that. However, presuppositional apologetics has developed and is offered in a context that is applicable to late 19th and early 20th century atheism and rationalism. It is medieval in its basic approach to apologetics in that it still consists largely of logic-chopping. One need only read enough from the apostolic church to see the difference in outlook. Vigilantius or Lucian or Columba or Columbanus had a quite different outlook, and were closer to an authentic exposition of the proper emphases of the Way.

    This is not to say that such an apologetic has not been called for in our time, but the time of rabid atheism and its foundations in logical positivism is passing quickly and along with it the effectiveness of rationalistic-oriented apologetics.

  2. Actually, many would rightfully state that Schaeffer is NOT in the strict VanTillian presuppositional ethics camp, and they would be correct. In the VanTil lectures that I just review, and that you might consider downloading for free, VanTil shows the illegitimacy of Aristotilian logic. This logic assumed man to be a worthy starting point for apologetics, and failed to clearly make a creator/created distinction. It is a logic that not even Platinga can remedy.But, I agree with you, Van Til is a true giant worth paying attention to.

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