Cornelius Van Til

Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til, 91, professor emeritus of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, died April 17 following a lengthy illness.

Van Til, who was born in the Netherlands, emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 10. Although he held degrees from Calvin College, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Princeton University, Van Til said studying “was not easy.… Having grown up on the farm [near Highland, Ind.], I was used to weeding onions and carrots and cabbages. It was hard to adjust to classroom work.…”

He pastored a Christian Reformed Church in Spring Lake, Michigan, in 1927 and 1928, and taught apologetics at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1928 and 1929. He served as professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1929 until he retired in 1972. His published writings include The New Modernism; The Defense of the Faith; and Christianity and Barthianism (all published by Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co.).

Van Til is perhaps best known for his development of a new approach to the task of defending the Christian faith. He focused his apologetic on the role of presuppositions; the point of contact between believers and unbelievers; and the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian world views. Two of his best-known students are Carl F. H. Henry, former editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, and the late Francis A. Schaeffer, whose books popularized some of Van Til’s ideas.


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