Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman
John R. Muether
Reviewed by: L. Anthony Curto
Date posted: 12/07/2008
Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman, by John R. Muether. Published by P&R Publishing, 2008. Hardback, 288 pages, list price 24.99. Reviewed by L. Anthony Curto, OP missionary and professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
John Muether has done a real service to the cause of Reformed presuppositional apologetics. Many who hear the name of Cornelius Van Til think immediately of a philosopher—a Christian philosopher, to be sure—but a philosopher nonetheless. Muether points us in a different direction to help us understand this "prince of apologists." As the title of this biography suggests, it was Van Til's theology (Reformed) and ecclesiology (Presbyterian) that set the course for his labor in the cause of God and truth.
Muether traces the providence of God in Cornelius Van Til's life from the Netherlands, where he grew up in a pious family influenced by the secessionist Afscheiding movement of the Dutch Reformed Church, to the "fields of Northern Indiana," to Princeton, New Jersey, and finally to Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1987.
Muether opens up the life of Van Til for us against the background of his early pastoral ministry, the controversies that occupied his attention, the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, his involvement in establishing Westminster Theological Seminary, and his labors as professor of apologetics at that institution. In each of these circumstances, it was not Van Til's philosophical bent that drove him, but his love for Christ and Christ's church, and his desire to bring glory to God.
For those who have read Van Til's writings, this biography will give new insight into the teaching of a Reformed apologist, especially his tract Why I Believe in God. For Presbyterian ministers and elders, it will give a heightened sense of what it means to be a churchman. For those who are unfamiliar with presuppositional apologetics, it will create a desire to explore more of this field of study.
When I first heard about this book, I was excited. I knew of Muether's love for Van Til and presuppositional apologetics. Also, Muether is the historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in which Van Til was a minister. Finally, Muether is a serious and qualified scholar. So I expected the book to be well worth the read, and I was not disappointed.
This biography of Cornelius Van Til is enlightening, thoughtful, soul searching, and compelling. You may not agree with every point that Muether makes, but you will be glad you read his book.