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Cornelius Van Til - Reformed Apologist and Churchman

John R Muether

(Published by P&R American Reformed Biographies Series)

I doubt that there are many that have not heard of Cornelius Van Til - although, I suspect in many quarters that the basic system of his apologetic argument is misunderstood.

Van Til (1895-1987) taught apologetics at Westminster Seminary in the United States. Westminister Seminary was an offshoot from Princeton Theological Seminary. Princeton is rightly famous in reformed theological circles for its Professors like J.A. Alexander, Charles Hodge and Samuel Miller. After the First World War, Princeton still boasted a world class theologian in the form of Benjamin B. Warfield, yet after his death in the early 1920s, a number of its faculty felt that the historic stance that had made the institution famous had been swept away by a tide of liberalism.J. Gresham Machen was one of the founding fathers (perhaps, the founding father) of Westminster Seminary. Machen took a clear stand in the 1920s and 30s against the growing tide of liberalism within the American Presbyterian Church. In his attack on liberalism he wrote the book 'Christianity and Liberalism' where he demonstrated that liberalism was another gospel. The early faculty over which he presided contained Ned Stonehouse, O.T. Allis, P. Woolley, C. Van Til, J. Murray and A. MacRae.The volume begins by charting the routs of Cornelius Van Til in the Netherlands. It gives a brief tour of Dutch Church history down to the rise of Kuyper (1837-1920) and the Doleantie. This is useful as it links some of the seemingly novel features of Van Til's thought to traditional Dutch Reformed dogmatics and theologians like Herman Bavinck. This passage on Dutch history then shows the migration to America and the vast influx on areas like Chicago and Indiana, just after the civil war. It is interesting to note the reflections of the author on the standards of the Christian Reformed Church and what areas of practical life were viewed as vices (theatre, dancing, cards etc.. )and what passed as being just fine (smoking and drinking).The book charts the rise of Westminster and the close friendships between Van Til and Machen, Prof. Murray (Westminster) and Prof. Berkhof (Calvin). It has interesting insights into the controversy with Gordon Clark. His ongoing controversy and clashes with Barth. His attitudes towards moves within the OPC towards greater Evangelical union. His brother being drawn into the views of Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Church - and the debates that it provoked on the Free Offer/Common Grace. Towards the end of his life, Van Til was becoming more estranged from Westminster - he did not warm to the ecumenism of Pres. E. Clowney. The book presents a Reformed Apologist and a Churchman who defended a traditional Reformed Calvinistic position in so many areas of life - his apologetic approach is part of this witness that is often sadly misunderstood. I hope that this book goes some way to reviving interest in him

Treasures from Bible Times Cutting Edge Scottish Reformation Reisinger

June 2020