The Essential Van Til – Connecting the Dots

Part of a good transcendental critique must be drawing the lines between the dots for people to see clearly.

If I have any critique of Van Til, it is that he could have done better connecting those dots. He observes things in people’s thought with uncanny penetration and insight. And he will often state that their position entails something else, often an unwelcomed theological conclusion. And he seems to be right when he draws the dots. However, he often leaves us dangling and does not always connect the dots explicitly. If we can improve on Van Til anywhere it is here: connect the dots more explicitly, while penetrating deeply and critiquing transcendentally (as Van Til did).

An example of what I am talking about is found in his The Theology of James Daane. There Van Til says that Arminians cannot do justice to the idea of an infallible Bible (p. 24). On the surface that sounds absurd because many Arminians believe in infallibility. But his point is that once you deny an absolutely sovereign God who stands back of all history and events, direct inspiration and the assurance that human authors are kept from error fails. In other words, a god that is not absolutely sovereign cannot have contact with creation, and even if he could he cannot speak with any level of absolute certainly. But he does not write that large with explicit clarity. He does not walk us through the logic of why “A” necessarily entails “B” (not just in this instance, but in almost every system of thought he critiques).

I think that is how we can advance Van Til today. Not by changing or toning down what he said (as some “Van Tillians” would have it), but by making more explicit and lucid what he did say.

Wilbur Cobb

1 year ago

A better way to improve on Van Til is to stop reading him and read more Gordon Clark.


1 year ago

That’s what Clark seemed to do 🙂


7 months ago

A pity that Van Til and Clark didn’t spend more time talking with one another…… privately. The public nature of their conflict may have helped draw some needed theological distinctions, but it damaged the legacy of both men. 1 Cor. 3:5

Camden Bucey

7 months ago

They did. Van Til wrote about this in his letters. He had Clark to his house for conversations about this issues sometimes for stretches up to eight hours. I find it sad that Clark couldn’t get his mind around the issues Van Til so patiently tried to show him.


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