Are All Van Tilians Equal?

In this brief episode, Camden Bucey discusses the Van Tilian interpretive tradition. Cornelius Van Til was an influential figure in the development of a distinctively Reformed apologetic. Camden Bucey discusses the issue of divergences in the Van Tilian interpretive tradition. In drawing out the insights of Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Scott Oliphint, and Lane Tipton, Bucey provides a brief look into the current landscape of Van Tilian apologetics.

Books on Van Tilian apologetics


Historia Ecclesiastica is an audio program dedicated to the history of the church. In each episode a particular event or person that is influential in the development of the church will be studied in order to inform the present day. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Richard L. Lindberg

9 years ago

Where would you put William Edgar, who also teaches apologetics at WTS?

Camden Bucey

9 years ago

Dr. Edgar is more on the cultural side of things. To be honest, I haven’t had any in depth interaction with him on apologetics and his writings, while very helpful, aren’t intended to address some of the issues I brought up in the video.

Bill Allamon

9 years ago

This is probably the wrong site to ask this, but can someone direct me towards a self-consciously reformed critique of van Til? I know of Sproul/Gerstner’s book. Any others?

Steve M

9 years ago


Visit http://www.trinityfoundation.org for most thorough and well thought out critiques of Van Til.


9 years ago

“Well thought out” hmmmmm……..

Mike R

9 years ago

bill – some of John Frame’s (although he is Van Tilian in many ways) work offers interesting critiques of some of Van Til’s thought. Clarkians disagree with VT on some issues and often offer harsh criticisms (see the Puritan Board and Triablogue sites for interaction between VT and GC’s followers).


9 years ago


I would avoid Trinity Foundation material with regards to Van Til. Most of their “arguments” against Van Til amount to little more than variations of the ad hominem and straw man fallacies. To get the other side of the John Robbins comments against Van Til and Bahnsen you can read the “Contra Robbins” articles by Bahnsen at cmfnow.com.

I wouldn’t recommend Sproul/Gerstner either as they are Evidentialists and start with a bias against the Presuppositional approach. Bahnsen debated Sproul once about the differences between Presuppositional Apologetics and the autnomous nature of Evidentialist Apologetics. In support the false concept of mental neutrality, Sproul gives the field up to the unbeliever and has God placed in the docks of unbelieving, autonomous human reasoning.

Frame’s works are a good place as is Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic. Bahnsen quotes Van Til extensively giving you the broader context of Van Til’s statements. Also it is helpful to remember that Van Til spoke as a philosopher and so was not always clear.

The Bahnsen/Stein debate pdf is available for free online. It allows you to see the devastating nature of the Presuppositional approach to unregenerate reasoning.

Hope this helps.

Mark G

8 years ago

There is a lot of stuff out there that misrepresents Van Til’s thought. Although his writings can be difficult or confusing it is important to understand his views rather than interpret him through his critics. When Van Til says the unbeliever can’t know anything he is not saying the unbeliever can’t know anything. 😉 I have been reading his Defense of the Faith (Oliphant ed.) and it is helpful to read Van Til responding to his critics. Many of the criticisms are the same old thing over and over. Oliphant also inserts helpful footnotes. Just as an example, Van Til’s antithesis seems no more or less radical than that of the apostle Paul; no more radical than the unbeliever having once been dead versus now being alive in Christ, a new creation; no more radical than being a citizen of heaven with all its benefits versus being of this present evil age. Men serve Christ or they serve Satan, there is no half Christ, no point of contact, in principle in this age, until Christ returns.

Greg S

8 years ago

This was my response to a Catholic in another forum in reference to the idea that only comprehensive, universal knowledge of all things actual and possible can provide the basis for certain knowledge of anything in particular:

Why thank you. But don’t ya see,(Van Til always said that) this is the absolute core of EVERY discussion, even if only unconsciously assumed, which is usually the case. Not just religious, but philosophical and scientific as well. People everywhere simply meander through life making universal uninterrupted use of a set of intellectual rules without even once ever questioning either their origin or validity. They simply proceed as if it’s a preeminent given that logic governs their reality in such a way that not one coherent thought word or deed would be possible without it.

My contention is… hang on… they’re right!!!! With one fatal flaw. By every “religious’ definition there is, they worship logic itself instead of the super-logical God who has created us in is image and in so doing has lent us a finite derivative version of HIS logic. Only He has the full version. That’s why when someone asks “how can God decree evil and not be it’s author and thereby responsible for it?” or “How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?” my profound, goose bump inducing answer is… “I dunno” LOL!!! I don’t even pretend to try n know.

Seriously. I use the same logic everybody else does, except that by His grace I’m freed to operate it properly under His divine tutelage with Him defining it’s parameters to me and not the other way around. “Why that’s just a circular statement of blind faith”. From our limited standpoint? Of course it is. I have flatly stated that myself.

I do not and have never claimed to know everything, but I do KNOW that HE knows everything and that is where my certainty derives from. Once again. A child does not know what his father knows, but he knows that his father knows it. He has no idea how Daddy’s grown up world operates. He simply trusts that Daddy does. I do the same. Jesus Himself said that we must come to Him as little children.

Is this what He meant? You better believe this is what He meant. I don’t understand MOST of the skull popping statements God makes about Himself in the bible, but I know He does. Let’s try just one. “And God said ‘let there be light’… and there was light”. WoohooHOOO!!!!! LOL!!!! Lemme know when yer thesis is done on that one LOL!!! (I’m not laughin at ya BTW). I’m sure you get my point.

I don’t have a “problem of evil” for instance because intellectually speaking evil is no problem for me. Why is there evil? (or why did God create Satan?) Because almighty God decreed it to His own glory. He orders it so that He can display both His love, mercy and tenderness on one hand and His holiness, wrath and justice on the other.

Couldn’t He have created so as to avoid all this suffering and accomplished the same thing? I don’t know that either. I just know that He didn’t and therefore this way is better for Him which by definition makes it better period because everything and everyone belongs to Him.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans” 11:36. Romans is the King’s feast of the truth of Jesus Christ. That book could be studied for 10 lifetimes.

Thomas Sullivan

8 years ago

This was a good overview. At one time Rousas Rushdoony’s writings were a helpful understanding of Van Tillianian Apologetics. Don’t find them so much any more, except we can find anything like that here in Grand Rapids, still.


8 months ago

I have to say, I think there’s a reason why Dr. Greg Bahnsen is considered by most, to be head and shoulders above other Van Tilians. While I would agree with Camden that Bahnsen could have focused more on the Trinity with Van Til’s work, Bahnsen focused more on the things he felt Van Til could have done a better job on. Hence, his works Ethics (wether he was right or not on Theonomy I will let the reader decide), his work on Self Deception, popularizing and making Van Til’s works more accessible, did major work (before Oliphint) in putting scriptural content to Van Til’s ideas, further development in Epistemology, and working out and developing Transcendental Arguments as well as answering many proposed objections, as well as applying Van Til’s Apologetics in public debates.

It seems to me Oliphint has had the benefit of working through both of Bahnsen’s and Frame’s work on Van Til, in addition of getting to know Van Til himself. Bahnsen, in his lectures on Systematic Theology holds to the Classical View of Divine Simplicity, Aseity, and Immutability of God. Oliphint, and Frame have both been critiqued for this.
I wonder how much of this has to do with Oliphint teaching as WTS, and maybe some hesitation with Bahnsen, a Theonomist whom, Westminister failed to hire at Van Til’s recommendation. Dr. Bahnsen, also ought to be considered as Van Til had him lecture for him while he was sick, due to his grasp of Van Til’s Method.


8 months ago

For clarification: I mentioned Bahnsen’s views on the Trinity, because while he may not have spent much time developing it, he seems to be more in line with the classical doctrines of God than Frame or Oliphint. While some may knock him for Theonomy, Bahnsen (right or wrong) ought to deserve credit for trying to apply Van Til’s thought into the Ethical realm. (Beyond Christian Theistic Ethics)

Also when I said Bahnsen should be considered, I meant as the leading Van Tilian Scholar. Everything I’ve found Oliphint to write on Van Til’s methodology has been already written more thoroughly by Bahnsen. Though I will admit Oliphint has focused more on Aquinas Thought and Apologetic history though then Bahnsen.



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