Apologetics to the Glory of God

Sola Scriptura, Van Til, and a Reformed Apologetic

As the Reformed Baptist pastor, apologist, and author  Dr. James White says so well, “the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who believe they don’t have any.”

This is simply to say that  we come to the text of Scripture, along with everything else,  with presuppositions about how we should interpret it. We don’t read the Scripture in a vacuum, or in some neutral fashion, because according to Scripture, it’s impossible, as we will see in a quote from Van Til.

So why is the Reformed tradition superior? Well, it certainly isn’t because of the men who subscribe to it and affirm it.

It is because of the emphasis that Scripture is our final authority in all matters of faith and life.  Even though we make use of church councils, creeds, and confessions, made by men, and even our own reasoning, we keep these things in subservience to the Word of God, which is the ultimate standard or rule. Simply stated, the Reformed faith is consistent Christian Theism.

Cornelius Van Til in his book  A Christian Theory of Knowledge sums it up very well:

It is Christ as God who speaks in the Bible. Therefore the Bible does not appeal to human reason as ultimate in order to justify what it says. It comes to the human being with abso­lute authority. Its claim is that human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it, namely, as cre­ated by God and as therefore properly subject to the authority of God…  The two systems, that of the non-Christian and that of the Christian, differ because of the fact that their basic as­sumptions, or presuppositions differ. On the non-Christian basis man is assumed to be the final reference point in predic­tion… The Reformed method…begins frankly “from above.” It would “presuppose” God. But in presupposing God it can­not place itself at any point on a neutral basis with the non-Christian… Believers themselves have not chosen the Chris­tian position because they were wiser than others. What they have they have by grace alone. But this fact does not mean that they must accept the problematics of fallen man as right or even as probably or possibly right. For the essence of the idea of Scripture is that it alone is the criterion of truth. [1]

What Van Til means here is that the Reformed method, in principle,  is ultimately committed to the Triune God of Scripture in our approach to all things.  This means the Reformed method begins on authority with the truth of the Triune God’s existence and that He has communicated with man in covenant fashion.

Again, it is the self-conscious commitment to Sola Scriptura that the Christian should commit to. Sola Scriptura should not be confused with Solo Scriptura which is simply the “me and my bible and no one else” approach. This is internally inconsistent as exegesis and exposition of the text of Scripture would lead one to reject this notion. Rather it is Sola Scriptura which says, “The Scripture alone is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, it is the only source for Christian doctrine, its truths are accessible to all as it is perspicuous and self-interpreting.”

I am not aware of any other tradition that does any of what is described above. So in answer to the question asked, “Shouldn’t we move away from tradition, and get back to Scripture?” I would respond that the question needs to be qualified. If it is a tradition of men that the question references, and if the tradition has its basis in a philosophy after man, then I would agree with an affirmative answer to the question. However, if by “tradition” it means “The Reformed tradition, and its outworking into Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Philosophical Theology and Apologetics, and Historical Theology” then I would answer “no,” because the Reformed tradition is self-consciously committed to Christ, through His Word, and its aim is to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and it is that which we strive to do as consistent Christian theists every day.

[1] A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, pp. 15, 18, 43.)


One response to “Sola Scriptura, Van Til, and a Reformed Apologetic”

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