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A Survey of Christian Epistemology

In Defense of the Faith, Volume 2

Direct Price: $24.99 $18.50
Format: Paperback
Pages: 228
ISBN: 9798887790626
Publication Date 01/02/69

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A Survey of Christian Epistemology gives readers an excellent introduction to the basic elements of Van Til's Christian theory of knowledge that inform all of his later writings. It calls us to interpret ourselves, the knowing subjects, as sinful creatures who suppress our knowledge of God (particularly by means of various philosophical systems), rather than as neutral, autonomous knowers. The book begins by surveying non-theistic Greek, medieval, and modern epistemological systems (chapters 2–9), and concludes by developing a specifically theistic Christian epistemology (chapters 10–15), all the while showing the deep antithesis between Christian and non-Christian approaches to knowledge.

In this groundbreaking work, Van Til argues that only if one "begins with the self-identifying Christ of Reformation theology, can one bring the 'facts' of the space-time world into intelligible relation to the 'laws' of this world. Science, philosophy and theology find their intelligible contact only on the presupposition of the self-revelation of God in Christ—through Scripture understood properly by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit" (from the preface). Christian epistemology, Van Til argues, must be self-consciously analogous—"reasoning which presupposes as its ultimate basis the reality of the biblical God and the authority of His revelation" [John M. Frame, Van Til the Theologian (Phillipsburg, NJ: Pilgrim Publishing, 1976), 19]. "The foundation of Van Til's system and its most persuasive principle" is a rejection of autonomy since "Christian thinking, like all of the Christian life, is subject to God's lordship" [John M. Frame, "Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic," WTJ 47, no. 2 (1985): 282.] In Van Til's epistemology, God's sovereignty is "an epistemological, as well as a religious and metaphysical principle. The Trinity becomes the answer to the philosophical problem of the one and the many. Common grace becomes the key to a Christian philosophy of history" [Frame, Van Til the Theologian, 5].

Cornelius Van Til's A Survey of Christian Epistemology was first published by Presbyterian and Reformed in 1969 as volume 2 of the In Defense of Biblical Christianity series. In its original 1929 syllabus form, it was titled "Metaphysics of Apologetics," and was a combination of Van Til's 1925 Princeton Seminary ThM thesis and his 1927 Princeton University PhD dissertation. Van Til used this syllabus during his first years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary.

The Author

Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987) was born in Grootegast, the Netherlands, and immigrated with his family to America in 1905. He attended Calvin College and Calvin Seminary before completing his studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University with the ThM and PhD degrees. 

Drawn to the pastorate, Van Til spent one year in the ministry before taking a leave of absence to teach apologetics at Princeton Seminary. When the seminary reorganized, he was persuaded to join the faculty of the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He remained there as professor of apologetics until his retirement in 1972. 

Van Til wrote more than twenty books, in addition to more than thirty syllabi. Among his best-known titles are The Defense of the Faith, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, and An Introduction to Systematic Theology.