G. Douglas Young Reviews Van Til

Appended to Buswell’s article “The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism” was the following brief analysis by Dr. G. Douglas Young. Dr. Young [1911-1980] was raised in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, educated at Acadia University (B.Sc., 1932) and studied for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary, graduating there with both the Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees at the Seminary’s first annual commencement exercises in May of 1938. His classmates at Faith included Francis A. Schaeffer, John M.L. Young, H. Blair McIntire Desmond Jones and Delbert P. Jorgensen. Young went on to receive his Ph.D. from Dropsie College in Philadelphia and became a noted archaeologist. He spent the majority of his adult life living and working in Israel. There he served for many years as president of the Institute of Holy Land Studies and during this time he also founded the Bridges for Peace organization.
Next up: Buswell’s article “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism”. After that, Van Til comes to defend his approach.


[The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 65.]

Since reading the review of Professor Van Til’s book, Common Grace, my colleague, Professor G. Douglas Young, Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Old Testament in The National Bible Institute has given me the following valuable letter. I believe what Professor Young says will clarify the minds of many on the issues involved. ED.

Dear Dr. Buswell,

Thirteen years ago I studied under Dr. Van Til. Since that time I have been reading whatever of his syllabi have been available as well as your critiques of them.

I got the idea, in class and in discussion, that Dr. Van Til believed that the reason there is no common ground between us and an unsaved man, and the reason why we do not even have a common starting point, is that the unsaved man has a serious deficiency in his mental apparatus. He is not able to relate any fact to the Creator and hence he and I look at each from different viewpoints. Because of this there is no common ground between us. It is certainly true that no unsaved man can understand things in all their aspects exactly as does the saved man. This is because of the above mentioned inability on his part. If the definition of common ground is so narrowed down, then it is obvious to me, and I feel sure to many others of Dr. Van Til’s pupils, that there is no common ground.

May I illustrate? It is as if I attempted to plot on a graph two curves which could never meet. If I had first, by definition, made sure that the equations for the curves were such that they could never meet, and then I should say that the curves have no common ground, my statement is not untrue simply because I have seen to it that it could not be true. As I see it, Dr. Van Til’s definition of common ground is like this. Obviously the unsaved man can not discern the things of the Spirit. If he has to see that aspect of things before we can argue about those things—then we have no common ground at all. On his definition there is just no room for common ground or common starting point, and I feel we should simply admit it. However—does he have the right to so define it? I believe not, and for the same reasons you adduce so clearly in your critiques when you state that it makes the concept of common ground meaningless, gives it an unhistoric sense, leads us to absurd conclusions on the practical and theoretical levels, and is contrary to the plain meaning in Romans the first chapter.

I write this to you simply because I feel that there are those who, like myself for some time, have felt that your controversy is simply one of “there is” and “there is not”. On his definition, “there is not” — obviously there can not be. But — his definition must be rejected. It is not simply a matter of whether there is or is not common ground. It is a matter of whether Dr. Van Til’s definition of common ground can be accepted or not. We can not accept it. There is a very real common ground.

Further, I feel that it would help the readers of The Bible Today very materially in their attempt to understand the importance of this controversy if you would present to them the story of how subtly the false teachings of Borden P. Bowne (Personalist Idealist) worked their way into Christian circles through the teaching of evangelical men. That is what is happening while this controversy is going on. I am sure that many of your readers are totally unaware of this aspect of the whole matter.

Douglas Young

Series Articles :
1. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Arguments from Nature to God: Presuppositionalism and Thomas Aquinas—A Book Review with Excursions,” The Bible Today 41.8 (May 1948): 235-248.
2. Schaeffer, Francis A., “A Review of a Review,” The Bible Today 42.1 (October 1948): 7-9.
3. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 41-64.
4. Young, G. Douglas, “Dr. Young’s Letter”, The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 65.
5. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.6 (March 1949): 182-192.
6. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.7 (April 1949): 218-228.
7. Anonymous, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.8 (May 1949): 261.
8. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism Concluded,” The Bible Today 42.9 (June-September 1949): 278-290.