Nettles, Thomas J.
Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987), who taught apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary for more than forty years, has—through his teaching and writings—called two generations of thinkers to a Christian worldview and a biblical defense of the faith. Yet, twenty years after his death, conflicting claims about Van Til's apologetic legacy abound. What most interpreters tend to overlook is his life as a Presbyterian churchman.
This biography locates Van Til in the context of twentieth-century Presbyterian and Reformed ecclesiastical struggles in America, including the formation of Westminster Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the rise of neo-evangelicalism and American expressions of Barthianism, and post–World War II developments in the Christian Reformed Church. As Van Til spent his life "raising high the banner of the Reformed faith," his role in these debates arose from his hopes for a church that was self-consciously rooted in its Reformed identity.
John R. Muether (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is librarian and associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. The coauthor of four volumes, Muether has served on the Harvard Divinity School library staff and has been librarian at Western Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary. He has served on the editorial board of Regeneration Quarterly and on the board of directors of Mars Hill Audio. He is historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves on that denomination’s Christian Education Committee.
“John Muether does a masterful job of tracing the personal history of this ‘father of presuppositionalism.’ He also shows the inextricable link between Van Til’s own call as a minister of the gospel and his task of training men for gospel ministry to be self-conscious in their apologetic method. As Muether weaves together the various strands of Van Til’s life and career, one can readily see, in a way not clearly seen before, that it was Reformed theology, and not philosophy, that shaped Van Til’s work as a Christian apologist. I could not put this book down.” — K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary
“Highly interesting and engaging. Particularly helpful is how Muether sets Van Til’s work in the context of contemporary academic and especially ecclesiastical debates. He presents many new angles on Van Til’s life that promise to enrich our appreciation and evaluation of him.” — David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics, Westminster Seminary California
“An outstanding introduction to the life and thought of Westminster Seminary’s premier apologist. Muether writes with the spirit of Van Til’s apologetic: suaviter in modo, fortiter in re—‘gentle in persuasion, powerful in substance.’ Read and be persuaded by the powerful impact of Van Til’s gentle yet confrontational blend of vigorous thought, gracious service, and Presbyterian churchmanship. This is essential reading for understanding Van Til’s unique and creative integration of the best of the Dutch Reformed tradition with the strengths of American Presbyterianism, which gave birth to presuppositionalism and continues to energize interest in worldview analysis.” — Peter A. Lillback, president, Westminster Theological Seminary