The ABC’S of Reformed Apologetics

If Christians are to bring the Gospel to the world they should do so through a Reformed apologetical method.

This is what Van Til sought to do in his own day in his responses to modern philosophy.2 It is only through a truly reformed, presuppositional apologetic that we may adequately challenge the wisdom of the world. What exactly, then, are the central theological tenets of a reformed apologetic? 

 

During the later part of the 20th Century, the Dutch Reformed apologist, Cornelius Van Til, sought to pave a way for a consistently Reformed apologetic method. Though building upon Reformed theological giants such as Warfield and Bavinck, Van Til did not believe that their apologetic methods were consistent with their theological system on the whole. Thus, while Van Til embraced the theology of Old Princeton and Old Amsterdam, he sought to bring a reformation to Christian epistemology and apologetics. Van Til saw this as a dire mission for consistently defending biblical Christianity before a watching world. Toward the end of his magnum opusThe Defense of the Faith, he wrote:

“When Warfield makes the high claim that Calvinism is ‘nothing more or less than the hope of the world,’ he is speaking of the Reformed system of theology and of the Reformed point of view in general. Other types of theology are supernatururalistic in patches. To some extent they yield to the idea of autoseterism, the idea that man to some degree is saved by his own effort. Therefore, argues Warfield, “Calvinism is just Christianity.” But then, precisely by the same reasoning, Reformed apologetics is the hope of the world.”

The point is simple: If Christians are to bring the Gospel to the world they should do so through a Reformed apologetical method. This is what Van Til sought to do in his own day in his responses to modern philosophy.2 It is only through a truly reformed, presuppositional apologetic that we may adequately challenge the wisdom of the world. What exactly, then, are the central theological tenets of a reformed apologetic? Ultimately, the central tenets of a Reformed apologetic rest on the same central truths of Reformed Theology. Consider the following:

  • Covenant Theology: Without a historic Reformed Covenant Theology, this apologetic method does not work. Covenant theology is an essential—all men are in covenant relation to God Himself. Because of this, man encounters the Triune God everywhere he goes. Van Til writes, “To speak of man’s relation to God as being covenantal at every point is merely to say that man deals with the personal God everywhere.”3
  • Covenant of Works: According to Van Til, there are only two types of people: covenant keepers and covenant breakers. In the Garden, Adam represented all mankind. He was to perfectly obey. Adam, and all in him, transgressed the covenant of works. By way of the fall of Adam, all men are now “covenant breakers.” We must tell others that both we and they are sinners,, by nature, without God and without hope.

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