This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2009 vol. 166 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed ApologeticsP & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ April 26, 2007
In the introduction the editors explain that “at least part of the purpose of this collection of essays is to set in the foreground the necessity of exegetical and theological foundations for any Reformed, Christian apologetic” (p. 1). In response to what they see as a tendency in contemporary theology to view apologetics as the purview of philosophy, they argue that the beginning point for those who want to do apologetics is the “Scripture, and then to those theologians who faithfully articulate its teachings” (p. 3). One reason for this is that “philosophy, even Christian philosophy, has a long and resolute history of turning its back on a consistent Reformed theology” (ibid.). Based on 1 Peter 3:15, they argue for a threefold foundation for Reformed apologetics. This approach begins with the assurance that Jesus is Lord, that apologetics is a defense of the faith, the truth of the gospel, and the hope it provides, and that it is performed with gentleness and fear. In short, “We should not be threatened, nor will we be, if we remember who is in charge of the universe, who is really in control” (p. 9, italics theirs). They conclude, “The following essays are meant to spell out more clearly the need for and the beauty of an apologetic surrounded by the rich truths of the Reformed faith” (p. 10).
The essays are arranged in three major sections, “Exegetical Considerations,” “Theological Foundations,” and “Methodological Implications.” An “Appendix: Cornelius Van Til and the Reformation of Christian Apologetics,” by K. Scott Oliphint, makes explicit what is clear from each of the essays, namely, that these authors are heavily influenced by Cornelius Van Til.
Several essays are particularly helpful. In “The Irrationality of Unbelief: An Exegetical Study,” Oliphint argues from Romans 1 that God’s wrath is fair because humanity has exchanged the truth revealed to them by God for idolatry. He explains, “The truth that we all, as creatures in Adam, know and suppress is a truth about God. . . . The truth that we all know, then, is the truth of God’s existence, infinity, eternity, immutability, glory, wisdom, and so forth” (p. 66). Michael S. Horton, in “Consistently Reformed: The Inheritance and Legacy of Van Til’s Apologetic,” provides an excellent introduction to Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics. The essay by William D. Dennison, “The Eschatological Implications of Genesis 2:15 for Apologetics,” argues that the task of apologetics is to “defend the holy presence of Christ and our present union with him in the heavenly places against every evil advance in opposition to him and his kingdom” (p. 191, italics his).
This volume is an excellent exposition of the Reformed apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. Its authors address a number of important areas of conflict and controversy and provide valuable exegetical support for the positions held. Both Reformed and non-Reformed Christians will profit from this book. Although the assumed dichotomy between philosophy and theology may be overstated, the commitment to Scripture as the necessary starting point for Christian apologetics is a helpful reminder.
—Glenn R. Kreider