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Fellowship in Reformed Apologetics

Reformed Forum’s Fellowship in Reformed Apologetics is a unique academic program offering intensive training in the tradition of Cornelius Van Til. The program is dedicated to fostering a rigorous and collaborative learning environment in order to produce theological leadership for the Church. Designed with flexibility in mind, this program adapts to the needs of each student—from full-time workers without formal theological education to postdoctoral students seeking an advanced research opportunity. 

This is not a degree program. Nonetheless, students and faculty alike will benefit from a collegial community actively engaged in lectures, critical reading, and seminar discussions. Students who complete the program will demonstrate a thorough understanding of Reformed apologetics through original research in service of the Church.

Defend the Faith

Learn the biblical principles of apologetics, the activity of making “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). This basic charge is the duty of all Christians, yet through this fellowship, you may further develop the ability to speak the truth of Christ faithfully to the world.

Equip Your Church

Many people are timid or feel unprepared for the task of apologetics. In learning how best to defend the faith, you may in turn equip members of your church to defend the faith and engage in effective outreach and evangelism. Through personal witness to Christ and the Gospel, God often grows the Church.

Cohorts & Study Groups

A small group of students will meet regularly to discuss lectures and readings with faculty members in a format inspired by traditional PhD/ThM seminars. The first course and accompanying cohort are available now. As we produce additional courses in the curriculum, we will establish cohorts for each course.

Curriculum

Introduction to the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til

In this course, students will learn the foundational features of Cornelius Van Til’s theology and apologetic by analyzing key doctrines through primary source readings. These features will be situated biographically as well as historically within Van Til’s ecclesiastical and ecumenical context. This course provides a compass for the entire fellowship program by covering in broad strokes the material for each of the program’s other courses.

Trinitarian Theology

Designed to equip the student to engage critically central issues in trinitarian theology, this course will focus on the architectonic significance of the Trinity both in Van Til’s theology and apologetics. Special attention will be given to Van Til’s historical and theological context, his theology of triune personhood, the structure and function of the representational principle, the distinctively trinitarian character of the transcendental method, and his rejection of all species of correlativism, ranging from Karl Barth to contemporary expressions of Evangelical mutualism.

Common Grace and the Antithesis

This course will explore Cornelius Van Til’s theology of common grace within his historical and polemical context. Topics will include Van Til’s philosophy of history, the point of contact in the apologetic encounter with the unbeliever, the myth of neutrality, and the history of the common grace debates within the Christian Reformed Church. Special attention will be given to Van Til’s theology of earlier and later grace in light of (a) the particularism and immutability of the triune God’s the eternal decree and (b) the universalism and mutability of Adam the covenant of works.

Apologetic Method

This course will consider Cornelius Van Til’s distinctive presuppositional or transcendental approach to defending Christian Theism as a unit. Van Til’s indirect argument by presupposition will be set in contrast to other approaches that use a block-house methodology and seek to offer rational and probabilistic arguments for theism and Christianity. The course will survey John Warwick Montgomery’s evidentialism, the New Reformed Epistemology, Wittgensteinian Fideism, Clarkian Coherentism, Roman Catholic Natural Theology, and Cumulative Case approaches to the apologetical endeavor. Special attention will be given to the Reformed theological foundations that regulate Van Til’s presuppositional or transcendental method and the use of evidence in a presuppositional apologetic.

Covenant Theology & Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics

This course will consider the entire system of theology that Cornelius Van Til argued consistently throughout his career must undergird a Reformed presuppositional method. The course will examine the influences of Augustine, Calvin, Bavinck, Warfield, Hodge and Machen on Van Til’s systematic approach to theology. Special attention will be given to the influence of Geerhardus Vos on Van Til’s understanding of biblical theology in general and how key biblical texts both undergird and enrich Van Til’s presuppositional approach.

Doctrine of Revelation

This course will be devoted to Cornelius Van Til’s theology of general and special revelation. The course will consider the nature of general revelation in Roman Catholic and Reformed perspective, the relation of general revelation to special revelation in the pre-lapsarian order, the relation of general revelation to special revelation in the post-lapsarian order, and the relation between deed revelation and Word revelation in the history of special revelation. Special attention will be given to the attributes of general revelation in Van Til’s key essay, “Nature and Scripture,” and its implications for a Reformed apologetic.

Van Til and Barth

This course will survey Cornelius Van Til’s exposition and critique of Karl Barth, focusing on his two main works on the subject, The New Modernism and Christianity and Barthianism. Special attention will be given to Van Til’s assessment in light of contemporary developments in Barth scholarship, ranging from the work of George Hunsinger to Bruce McCormack.

Idealism

This course will trace the argument developed in Cornelius Van Til’s doctoral dissertation, and the developments of that argument, in responding to (a) subjective idealism, (b) transcendental idealism, and (c) Absolute Idealism in its British, American, and German forms. Special attention will be given to Van Til’s “method of implication” that urges all facts and laws are intelligible in relation to the absolute triune God of revelation in nature and in Scripture. Common criticisms of Van Til’s appropriation of idealist terminology and worldview thinking will also be addressed.