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April 17

Cornelius Van Til

Born on May 3, 1895, in Grootegast, Groningen, the Netherlands, Cornelius Van Til immigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1905. After studies at Calvin College and Seminary he enrolled at Princeton Seminary, where he studied under Geerhardus Vos, C. W. Hodge, and Robert Dick Wilson. In 1927 he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. The same year he married Rena Klooster.

Following a brief pastorate in the Christian Reformed Church and a year teaching at Princeton, Van Til became a member of the original faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929, teaching apologetics. In 1936, he transferred his ministerial membership into the newly-formed Orthodox Presbyterian Church where he remained throughout his life, declining several invitations to return to Calvin Seminary and the CRC.

In all of his work Van Til consistently championed the apologetic approach of presuppositionalism. “The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to ‘facts’ or ‘laws’ whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to the debate,” he wrote. Van Til vigorously challenged traditional approaches to apologetics, both Catholic and evangelical, because they conceded too much to non-Christian ways of thinking and denied God as the ultimate judge of reality. In works such as The New Modernism (1946), he also warned against the seductive teachings of Karl Barth and the emerging neo-orthodox movement.

After an illness of several months, Cornelius Van Til died in his sleep at his longtime home in Erdenheim, outside of Philadelphia, on April 17, 1987, three weeks shy of his ninety-second birthday.

Picture: Cornelius and Rena Van Til on the occasion of their twenty-seventh wedding anniversary in 1954.

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