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I just read this really good essay that repudiates Cornelius Van Til’s apparent rebuttal of Karl Barth’s theology. Gavin Ortlund puts Van Til’s critique in perspective, and demonstrates how it should not be taken seriously—cornelius-van-til-01only as a caricature—of Barth’s actual theology. I don’t actually think that Ortlund is a ‘Barthian’, per se, but his essay goes along way in dis-spelling the demonic mist that has surrounded Barth for all too long among his Westminster Theological Seminary-typed critics. Here is how Gavin Ortlund concludes his essay:

I will finish this study by noting two conclusions which do not follow from it, and one which does. First, it does not follow from what I have written here that Van Til’s general contribution to theology should be in any way denigrated. There can be no question of his importance, especially in the realm of apologetics. If it is true, as John Frame has suggested, that Van Til tended to adopt an all or nothing approach toward other thinkers, that is no reason why the same approach should be adopted towards him. Secondly, it does not follow that there is no room for further criticism of Karl Barth’s theology. Barth’s theology may be flawed for reasons different than those given by Van Til, or there may be problems with specific areas of his thought or method.

        What I would suggest from this essay is that interpreters of Barth, especially those in the Van Tilian chain of influence, make greater effort to form their interpretations of Barth through thoughtful and discerning interaction with Barth’s writings. In evangelical circles, and especially in reformed circles in America and Britain, Barth is often regarded with suspicion, dismissed without a reading, summarized with neat but unhelpful slogans, and/or written off as a liberal. All would profit from more careful reading of Barth’s writings, more caution, fairness, and balance in analysis, and a fresh openness to the complexities and nuances of his work.

        This conclusion follows most of all for those who share concerns about Barth, because genuine and vigorous opposition to Barth’s theology is not well served by Van Til’s critique. It may be that part or all of Barth’s theology needs to be rejected, but it should be fairly engaged before it is rejected. Even if one finds, upon one’s own separate reading and reflection, Karl Barth to be the worst heretic in the history of the church – let him nevertheless be denounced for what he is and not something he is not. [read the whole essay: “Wholly Other or Wholly Given Over: What Van Til Missed in his Criticism of Barth,” Presbyterion 35.1 (2009): 35-52]

I commend this to you, you Van Tilian anti-Barthians, in particular :-).



Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.


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Philosophy of Blogging

“I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” - St. Augustine cited by John Calvin

“We must always keep in mind that the reason the Son of God came down from the hidden throne of the eternal Father and revealed heavenly doctrine was not to furnish material for seminary debates, in which the display of ingenuity might be the game, but rather so that human beings should be instructed concerning true knowledge of God and of all those things which are necessary to the pursuit of eternal salvation.” Martin Chemnitz, Loci theol. ed., 1590, Hypomnemata 9 cited by Barth, CD I/1, 82.


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