I’m reading Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til Edited by William Edgar, the Second Edition.


I hadn’t planned on commenting on the introduction by William Edgar, but I suppose I will. This paragraph from pages 4 and 5 caught my attention. Referring to Van Til Edgar writes: 

“What he did not hold is that apologetic arguments in themselves could drive someone from skepticism to faith. Not only is our reasoning often faulty, because it is self-interested and sinful (the “noetic effects” of sin), but if God is transcendent, no argument could hope to substantiate him that does not include his authority and compelling power to begin with… For Van Til… there could never be isolated self-evident arguments or brute facts, because everything comes in a framework. That is why he calls his approach the “indirect method.” One cannot go directly to the facts, as thought they were self-evident. First one must recognize the foundation and go on from there.”

In this statement, there seems to be some indication that Van Til understood that formulating a method of apologetic argumentation required an understanding of purpose. There is a point at which human psychology must be taken into consideration when thinking epistemologically toward communicating understanding. That is to say that the absorption of information requires ideal psychological conditions, both internally and externally. The one communicating has some control over the external environment and means of communication.

There are internal factors that simply cannot be persuaded. What’s missing in this quote is mention of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the key to Christian enlightenment. No communicator of the gospel, or its defense, can control the spiritual state of a person. On some fundamental level the facts can be presented, arguments made, but it is a person’s desire for truth above self-justification that will make the message palatable, and this desire can only be given by God.

Edgar mentions “facts” here. Van Til it seems has a very specific definition of “facts” he uses. I may get into this more in the first chapter, but he essentially links “facts” with empirical discovery. I draw a bone of contention here in that people often start young in the faith as mere experientialists in that they experience God personally as well as through the normalization of fellowship with other Christians. Their faith is bolstered by teaching them the foundational things and giving them greater support for the certainty of the gospel to sustain them during times of experiential drought. This is what I observe, but this isn’t what Edgar seems to be saying Van Til holds. So I’ll be looking for what Van Til says about this in the main part of the book.