Grand Central: Thorn's Morgue: Why Van Til Believed in God (index)

Why Van Til Believed in God
by Anton Thorn



Many presuppositionalists seem to think that Cornelius Van Til's essay Why I Believe in God presents a hard-hitting and all-defeating apologetic. For instance, in his brief review Van Til's Why I Believe in God, Van Til's former student and chief popularizar Greg L. Bahnsen asks "Want a small gem which explains and illustrates presuppositional apologetics? Then get hold of Cornelius Van Til's brief pamphlet 'Why I Believe in God'. It isn't flashy in style. It isn't complex in content. But it is devastating."

Now, when I read Bahnsen's remarks, I was rather puzzled. For I remember having read Van Til's testimonial on several occasions in the past, and I found it hard to believe that Bahnsen had the same paper in mind. I always thought Van Til's autobiographical comments in his essay were self-evidently damning of any claim to rationality behind his god-belief. Not only did I find Van Til's reasons for why he supposedly believed the Christian worldview wholly unconvincing, I have always been surprised when apologists point to Van Til's essay as a superlative example of presuppositional apologetics in action.

Since to this day I still see apologists cite the testimony in Van Til's essay as some kind of stellar argument, I have decided to interact with it. But rather than write a formal expository essay which focuses only on a portion of Van Til's essay, I have chosen to embed my commentary and criticism in a somewhat conversational format. At times I will be directing my comments to the reader, as an aside, and at other times I will be addressing Van Til himself as his conversant. I have chosen to do this because Van Til's essay is itself conversational and embellished with personal allusions and remarks, and the overall course of his presentation is couched in an array of personal and sometimes incriminating autobiographical detail. So let us turn our attention now to examining this "small gem" which has apologists great and small so impressed.

Because of the length of this study, I have divided my paper into the following chapters which more or less follow the original format of Van Til's essay:

  1. A Conversation Starter (14 kb)

  2. The "Accident of Birth" (14 kb)

  3. Childhood (48 kb)

  4. Early Schooling (26 kb)

  5. Later Schooling (9 kb)

  6. Objections Raised, Part 1 (38 kb)

  7. Objections Raised, Part 2 (37 kb)

  8. Objections Raised, Part 3 (38 kb)

  9. Conclusion (29 kb)


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Completed and posted 2003 - ATOA