Van Tilian Turf Wars (Part 1)

At least three types of Van Tilian presuppositionalists have emerged from the recent surge in popularity of presuppositionalism.

Fundamentalist

The first group are the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are not necessarily to be identified with fundamentalism in general, but rather with fundamentalist tendencies when it comes to discerning apologetic methodology. This brand of presuppositionalism takes a more biblicist approach to apologetic questions and disputes. Though arguments may be offered in the context of apologetic discussion, these arguments are typically less philosophically precise and more explicitly biblical or dogmatic. Examples of those in the fundamentalist strain of presuppositionalism include Answers in Genesis, Sye TenBruggencate, and Cliff McManis.

Traditional

The second group are the traditionalists. Traditionalists are either well-read in the writings of Cornelius Van Til, or strive to make sure that they will be soon. Traditionalists are in agreement with the fundamentalists in terms of their commitment to Scripture, but point out the value of following the apologetic system Van Til derived from that authoritative source. The arguments of this method are typically broad, all-encompassing, sweeping arguments and draw heavily upon the insights of systematic and biblical theology especially as they are understood through covenant theology. Examples of those representing the traditional view of presuppositionalism include Westminster Theological Seminary, K. Scott Oliphint, and Doug Wilson.

Attenuated

The third group are the attenuated Van Tilians. The attenuated approach is generally more philosophical in nature than either fundamentalist or traditional approaches to presuppositional apologetics. Arguments are analytical in nature, rigorously philosophical, and incorporate the newest insights of epistemologists and metaphysicians. Examples of attenuated presuppositionalists include many members of the now defunct Van Til list such as Greg Welty and James Anderson, and Paul Manata.

Now, these categories are not exact, and I certainly do not intend to offend or unnecessarily pigeonhole anyone. Those familiar with presuppositionalism will note a great deal of overlap. However, the flavors described above seem generally correct.

(I took the title of this series from a comment made by Dr. James R. White on an episode of The Dividing Line featuring commentary on the debate between Sye TenBruggencate and Matt Dillahunty.)


4 Comments

Jared Oliphint

This is insightful.

Shizmoo

I would love to see the Attenuated side get promoted the most for obvious reasons, they are the most learned and intelligent of the bunch and know philosophy. But I have no problem with the other groups for they all argue/defend Jesus Christ and it doesn’t matter how well someone can destroy an atheist for they will never accept Jesus.

CandidCannon

Very helpful. I look forward to part 2.

SLIMJIM

I think this paradigm is helpful in explaining some of the recent tension among Presuppositionalists


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