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Bringing Schaeffer and Van Til Together

In an essay celebrating the 100th anniversary of Cornelius Van Til’s birth, William Edgar compared Francis Schaeffer to Cornelius Van Til. Much has been made about their different approaches to apologetics, but Dr. Edgar records an interesting encounter between the two that may nuance the divide:

A fascinating anecdote brings out the way that at least on one level Schaeffer actually felt very close to Van Til. He visited Westminster Seminary a number of times, and President Edmund Clowney would try to sit them down together to hash out their differences. On one of these occasions, Clowney recalls, they were in his office, and Van Til tried various ways to start a debate. Whenever he affirmed a particular point, however, Schaeffer replied, “I agree with that.” Finally, perhaps a bit frustrated, Van Til launched into a fifteen-minute summary of his whole apologetic, beginning, as he was fond of doing, with Adam and Eve and going through all of his basic credo, using the many illustrations his students are familiar with. At the end of his speech, Schaeffer, obviously moved, declared: “That is the most beautiful statement on apologetics I’ve ever heard. I wish there had been a tape recorder here. I would make it required listening for all L’Abri workers.” This from a man who did not compliment other theologians easily.

You can read more about Van Til and Schaeffer in the essay, “Two Christian Warriors: Cornelius Van Til and Francis A. Schaeffer Compared” in Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 57, No. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 57-80. You can also pick up a copy of Dr. Edgar’s new book, Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality.


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