Reformed Apologetics

J. V. Fesko has written Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Baker Academic, 2019). In the book, Dr. Fesko criticizes, among others, Cornelius Van Til. In this conversation, we interact with the book and compare its claims with those of Van Til. A central claim of Dr. Fesko’s is that Van Til rejects “common notions.” He writes:

in the middle of the seventeenth century, philosophers such as John Locke (1632–1704) rejected the idea of common notions. In the twentieth century, this rejection made its way to liberal and conservative Reformed theologians alike, including Karl Barth (1886–1968) and Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987).”[1]

He draws particular attention to Van Til’s discussion of authority and reason on pages 168–169 of Defense of the Faith (3rd edition).[2] On those pages, Van Til makes an important distinction:

A word must now be said about the idea of ‘common notions’ referred to in the quotation given above. The present writer made a distinction between notions that are psychologically and metaphysically, that is revelationally, common to all men, and common notions that are ethically and epistemologically common.[3]

Van Til continues, “All men have common notions about God; all men naturally have knowledge of God.”[4] So, what is Van Til getting at? There are notions common to all men, but there are some things common to believers and others common to unbelievers. Van Til explains what is also common to natural man as a consequence of total depravity:

It is this actual possession of the knowledge of God that is the indispensable presupposition of man’s ethical opposition to God. There could be no absolute ethical antithesis to God on the part of Satan and fallen man unless they are self-consciously against the common notions that are concreated with them. Paul speaks of sinful man as suppressing within him the knowledge of God that he has. . . . It is these notions of human autonomy, or irrational discontinuity and of rationalistic continuity that are the common notions of sinful or apostate mankind.[5]


[1] J. V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019), 24.

[2] Fesko, 24n56.

[3] Cornelius Van Til, Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: P & R Publishing, 1967), 168.

[4] Van Til, 168.

[5] Van Til, 168.

[6] Van Til, 168.


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Reformed Forum, the Church, and the Great Commission

Reformed Forum exists to present every person mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). We do that specifically by supporting the Church in her God-ordained task of accomplishing the Great Commission. In this episode, we discuss our mission and vision and share exciting news about the future of our ministry including Camden Bucey’s transition to become our full-time Executive Director.

Reformed Forum is an organization committed to providing Reformed Christian theological resources to pastors, scholars, and anyone who desires to grow in their understanding of Scripture and the theology that faithfully summarizes its teachings. We are committed to the principles of the Reformation and a redemptive-historical approach to Scripture. We believe these faithfully represent the teachings of the Bible, which is our only standard for faith and practice.

During the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy of the early twentieth century, E. J. Young wrote to J. Gresham Machen, the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary and key figure in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which had yet to be formed:

Within the church there should be an organization, entirely independent of the formal church, which would act as leaven. This organization should be composed of ministers, elders and laymen of the new church alone, who not only believe the Westminster Confession but who are on fire with it. The purpose of this organization should be to propagate and to defend the Reformed faith, to point out the errors of modernism, sacerdotalism, premillennialism, Arminianism, Trichotomy, and so much of the anti-Scriptural evangelism of today. Furthermore, this group would seek to propagate Reformed literature, such as your book, Christianity and Liberalism, Boettner’s book and works of that type. It would seek to propagate this literature not only among the clergy but also among the laity. In other words, it would be a missionary agency whose primary field is the church. Further, it would eventually seek to promote truly Reformed Bible Conferences and Evangelistic Campaigns, would seek to start Reformed Bible classes and prayer meetings and would seek to encourage Reformed radio broadcasts, etc.

E. J. Young, letter to J. Gresham Machen, October 2, 1935.

Seventy-three years passed before Reformed Forum was founded and much has changed regarding technology, but providentially we have become such an organization. There is a need today just as there was then, because the theological challenges persist. We are committed to be faithful to Scripture to the end that Christ would be glorified in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.


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The Role of Surveys in Biblical Studies

Jim Cassidy speaks about his experience teaching a New Testament survey at South Austin OPC in South Austin, Texas. Surveys of the Old Testament, New Testament, and the entire Bible are useful for provide historical, cultural, geographical, and other forms of context in order to help us deepen and widen our understanding of God’s plan and purpose for his covenant people.


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Divine Authority Displayed in Covenant

We gather around the table in Wimberley, Texas to discuss the authority of the self-contained Triune God of Scripture. The absolute, self-sufficient God nevertheless established a covenant with man by an act of special providence. In that act, the authority of God’s word is diplayed—entirely independently of man’s response. Whether Adam obeyed or disobeyed, God’s infallible word would be proved.


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The Usefulness of the Cross

What does suffering have to do with the life of the Christian? Is suffering something we just have to endure until that time that we will have the victory in Christ? To address this matter, we turn to a classic article by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “The Usefulness of the Cross,” The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 41 No. 2 Spring 1979, pp. 228–246.

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