Van Til’s Reformed Apologetic Summary

Way back in 2015, I wrote a review of Cornelius Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith which gave a very simple (simplistic?) summary of what I am calling a Reformed Apologetic. Coming back to the present, I have just finished part 3 of a series on Reformed Apologetics where I have yet to really flesh out what that method looks like. We’ve spent time critiquing the other views as they are the typical default approach of Christians. But I thought it would be helpful to offer something in writing that we can go back and review as needed. So here you go:

First, there can be no neutral ground between believers and non-believers. We all interpret nature, being, and knowledge based on our presuppositions for good or for bad. However, since we are all created and bear the image of God because of God’s common grace, there is a sense of divinity [sensus divinitatis, because Latin makes it better!] wherein we all have some knowledge of God. The difference between the believer and the unbeliever is that the sinner suppresses that truth (Rom. 1:18ff.) and opts to believe in autonomy rather than acknowledge subservience to the Creator. What this looks like then is that a Christian can offer all the proof or evidence in the world to an unbeliever. But the unbeliever will simply interpret it based on his presupposition of autonomy.

The error, among others as Van Til points out, is that the non-believer has no way to account for fact or logic so as to interpret nature or reality or being and so on. That is not to say that the unbeliever cannot know something. However, they can only know because they have access to the only way we can know anything – the sensus divinitatis. But because they deny their knowledge of God and suppress it, they cannot account for how they know anything. This makes the non-believer function in the realm of both a rational and irrational epistemology. They can rationally use logic to know something, but they believe everything is left to chance which can only lead to irrationality (what they know can just as simply change). However, the believer can account for knowledge because not only does he acknowledge the sensus divinitatis, but God has determined everything in the counsel of his will and thus knows everything. Only that which he ordained can happen. Thus God has an absolute knowledge. There is no chance with God. And God has revealed himself partly in the sensus divinitatis. Therefore knowledge is accessible and accountable for believers.

When non-Christians know something and declare they know something [I’ll add that they also declare that they absolutely know nothing as well, which is to claim to know something], they are actually borrowing from the Christian worldview or tapping into the truth of God that they so deeply try to suppress. Therefore, the only way to account for anything, much less knowledge or reality or facts, is through the Christian (and reformed) worldview. Or to put it another way, Bahnsen said, “[T]he proof of the Christian God is the impossibility of the contrary.” Perhaps the best example of this method in action is Greg Bahnsen’s debate against Gordon Stein the atheist.