Reproduced here is the substance of Dr. Buswell’s critique of Van Til’s work on the Christian Apologetics. I posted yesterday the first two letters between Buswell and Van Til, and a portion of the third letter to which Buswell attaches the details of his critique of CVT’s work on Christian Apologetics.
In this review, Buswell is working with a pre-publication copy and the references cited below are [frustratingly] keyed to that edition. Dr. Van Til’s book was published two years later(1939) under the auspices of the Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. The published work has 113 pages, where the pre-publication copy had at least 146 pages. Thus it is at least possible that Van Til took some of Buswell’s critiques into account in editing for the final published edition.
Perhaps someone with access to either the pre-publication copy (1937) or the first edition (1939) of CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS will supply us with a copy of same or possibly take up the project of supplying the specific quotes that would make better sense of Buswell’s comments.
[I’ve added some explanatory notes to the text below, shown in square brackets. Also, Latin phrases have been rendered in italics to facilitate reading. Otherwise the text is an accurate reproduction of the original document, retaining Buswell’s spelling, etc.]
[Update (Overly scholarly bibliographic note) : I’ve received via Interlibrary Loan a copy of the 1939 publication. It is interesting to see that the printing process employed for the 1939 edition was mimeography or stencil duplication (some will remember the old blue ink on paper look). Also, on the obverse side of the title page, there is this Publisher’s Note: “In order to produce this book at the least possible cost, no proof reading beyond careful typing has been done. Mistakes of which neither the author nor printer are cognizant may have crept in.” The last page of this softcover edition notes that it was “Revised and Printed, January 1939.”]
19 3 7
Professor Cornelius Van Til
Westminster Theological Seminary
1528 Pine Street
My dear Professor Van Til
I must apologize for imposing upon you this lengthy set of notes and remarks. I should not blame you one bit if you simply consigned them to the waste basket.
I have dictated on the dictaphone and corrected all the notes up to page twenty.
I have to leave this afternoon for a Bible conference in Elkhart and shall not have a minute’s time next week. I am therefore sending the notes on to you without having read my secretary’s write-up of the material from page twenty on.
Very cordially yours
(Signed) J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.
It is very presumptuous on my part to write you in such detail in regard to your valuable work on Apologetics I have learned much from reading it and have profited thereby, I feel that your insistence upon the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the trinity and your strong emphasis Upon the absolute self-existence and independence of God, constitute a very necessary and valuable emphasis in our modern world.
The following consists chiefly of a listing and brief discussion of points that troubled me as I read.
Page 2, lines 2 and 6 from the bottom of the page. You seem to use the phrases “full information” and “full interpretation” as synonymous. As I said in my former letter, I have been troubled all the way through your work by your usage of the word “interpretation.” In this context on page 2 of course you do not mean that one would gain either a full interpretation or full information about a snake from the Bible, but I understand that you mean that one would never find out that a snake has a relationship to God as a creature, without looking into the Bible, In this of course I agree. No one has ever reasoned from any fact directly up to God, James Orr makes this very emphatic in “The Christian View of God and the World.” Logically and metaphysically of course there is a direct path of inference from any fact in the universe to God and to the correct view of that fact as a created fact, but historically no one has ever followed that path, independent of revelation.
Page 4, line 17 to 15 from the bottom of the page. If we defend the fortress of Christian theism, we have the world to ourselves logically, but not actually. It then remains for us to persuade and instruct men as God has commanded us and by such logical means as he has put at our disposal. Read the rest of this entry »