Review: Van Til’s Apologetic

547104Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) was Scholar-in Residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies in Irvine. Bahnsen was a distinguished scholar and a well-known Reformed apologist and debater. Bahnsen is the author of numerous books, including By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today and Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. Still, one of Bahnsen’s most coveted and useful works remains Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis.

Van Til’s Apologetic is a substantial 800-page volume aimed at promoting an understanding of the apologetic output of Cornelius Van Til. Bahnsen has brought together principal apologetic passages from Van Til’s massive body of work, organized them topically, and added keen and insightful comments throughout. The result is a careful and comprehensive examination of Van Til’s apologetic methodology from one of the foremost proponents of Van Til’s presuppositional approach to the task of Christian apologetics.

The thematic organization of the book offers readers an entryway with various side streets to explore. There are nine main sections with several subdivisions: (1) An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic, (2) The Task of Apologetics, (3) A Simple Summary and Illustration, (4) The Epistemological Side of Apologetics, (5) The Apologetical Side of Epistemology, (6) The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief, (7) The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument, (8) Comparison and Criticism of Apologetic Methods, and (9) Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith.

Bahnsen rightly identifies a number of obstacles readers generally encounter when standing before the mountain of Van Til’s apologetic worldview. Two are worth noting here. First, the sheer size of Van Til’s literary output makes it difficult for the average reader to engage. Second, much of Van Til’s work presupposes a certain understanding of various philosophical and theological concepts and can be difficult for some readers. Where Bahnsen offers assistance is gathering the essential portions of Van Til’s work and providing necessary commentary to help readers not only understand but apply Van Til’s apologetic methodology.

Bahnsen’s choice of Van Til material is calculated and intentionally displayed. He really shows himself to be acquainted, not only with Van Til but his apologetics. Moreover, Bahnsen’s notes on Van Til’s work is unparalleled. It is both helpful and insightful. I’ve tried to read Van Til on several occasions. It’s not impossible. But, reading Van Til next to Bahnsen was truly enjoyable. For the sake of objective and critical analysis of his methodology, It would have been beneficial to have interaction with someone who didn’t fancy everything about Van Til. But, the scope of the book was to orient readers to Van Til’s apologetic, and Bahnsen has certainly accomplished this goal with flying colors.

Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis by Greg L. Bahnsen is an essential volume for those looking to engage the thought, theology, and apologetic of Cornelius Van Til. It’s a well-written and clearly presented volume that demonstrates a keen understand of one of the most important Reformed thinkers of the past hundred years. Bahnsen is encyclopedic and anyone serious about trying to understand Van Til will need this book on their shelf. It’s both Bahnsen’s best book and the best work on Van Til’s apologetic, and comes highly recommended!

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