Tuesday, August 2, 2011

VanTillian: Yeah! That'll Preach

This Sunday, I looked at Matthew 12:22-29 in my message. I showed how Jesus responded to the argument of the Pharisees.

I think in the passage, the Pharisees are confronted with the obvious "evidence" in the miracles of Jesus. They do what men always do: they suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. So they have all the evidence of God's Spirit at work in Jesus' miracles. But because they do not want to believe, they must great an alternate belief: namely, Jesus is casting out demons by Satan.

It is amazing to me that Jesus takes this argument on its own terms and shows how it breaks down. The unbelief destroys itself. It is obvious to all that no kingdom divided can actually stand. There unbelieving explanation does fit with reality.

At the end of the day, while not a point Jesus makes, we see illustrated that unbelief is a kingdom divided. The unbeliever forms ideas in suppressing the truth. He cannot escape that he is made in God's image. Thus, unbelief breaks down on its own. It is never internally consistent. It does not comport with truth and reality so at some point it contains within it its own self-destruction point.

The unbeliever has clear inconsistencies in his worldview. This is a key insight to Van Til's apologetics.

I find this incredibly encouraging. I find that sometimes people in the church can feel intimidated when they encounter unbelief. They feel like they don't know what to say or how to counter it. While we should study and prepare for such things, we don't have to panic the moment we encounter unbelief as if "What do I say? I don't know. What if I can't remember it or handle the attack." But if the system breaks down on its own--and I know that upfront, it takes a bit of the apprehensiveness that many Christians have when it comes to defending the faith.

My sermon didn't discuss all the aspect of Van Til's apologetics. Admittedly Van Til is a tough read and for the average layperson, his language is over people's heads. But the core of Van Til--because it is grounded in a Biblical worldview and the gospel-- will actually preach. 

It is not a philosophical system. It is about coming back to the gospel, the message that God's kingdom is at hand. If God's kingdom has come, then alternate explanation of what we see or what has happened will never do justice to the truth.

VanTillian Apologetics: yes! That'll preach!

Although I never mention VanTil in the message, I think it comes across, especially as I try to encourage the saints in the first point.


The second half of the sermon does deal with the nature of God's kingdom that "has come." Which brings up another interesting point: there is a relationship between VanTil's apologetics and the eschatological climax of redemption. Van Til himself was deeply indebted to Vos.

One other story, I remember hearing at Westminster Theological Seminary that at his core Van Til was a preacher not a philosopher. My recollection is that I was told he would on occasion do street preaching and evangelism. Beside the fact that Van Til's method seeks to derive itself from Scripture and Systematic and Biblical Theology, maybe this is one more reason that VanTil's methods do "preach" as it were.

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