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Buswell Reviews Carnell’s Apologetics

In J. Oliver Buswell on 01/07/2011 at 13:06

Next up will be a related series of posts covering Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.’s further comments on presuppositionalism, with two replies by Dr. Cornelius Van Til and even a word from Francis A. Schaeffer.  The previous exchange between Buswell and Van Til occurred in 1937. This next series of volleys appeared just over a decade later. And of course apologetics at this level isn’t necessarily of interest to everyone, so we’ll intersperse some other articles along the way.

Buswell left Wheaton College in 1940 to become president of the National Bible Institute in New York City. The house organ of the Institute was a publication titled THE BIBLE TODAY, and beginning in May of 1948, an interesting series of articles on apologetics appeared on the pages of this little journal. Buswell himself led the charge with a review of the recent book on apologetics by E.J. Carnell.  Then Francis A. Schaeffer offered his input with “A Review of a Review,” in which he lays out where he stands as over against both Buswell and Van Til. In the next issue of the journal, Buswell reviews Van Til’s latest book, COMMON GRACE, after which all seems quiet for a while. Then in March 1949, Buswell stirs the pot again with “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism,” a review of the P&R edition of Warfield’s INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE. Then Van Til offers a lengthy reply in the April issue of THE BIBLE TODAY.  An anonymous reader throws in some humorous poetry in the May issue, and Van Til finishes his reply in the June issue. At that—and ever the gentleman—Buswell gives Van Til the last word and that is the end of the series. 

For your convenience, here is a list of those articles for citation purposes, with links to be embedded as the articles post:

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.

Of historical interest, too, is Buswell’s early statement in this article that it was Dr. Allan A. MacRae who coined the term “presuppositionism”.  For the moment, and without further input or correction, I’ll assume that “presuppositionism” quickly became the more fluid term “presuppositionalism” (as evidenced even within this article by Buswell), and that credit does effectively go to MacRae for coining the term.  

The Arguments From Nature To God

Presuppositionalism and Thomas Aquinas
A Book Review with Excursions by

An Introduction to Christian Apologetics
By Professor Edward John Carnell.

GOOD intensive workmanship over a surprisingly extensive field, true loyalty to the Bible, and that clarity of expression which will make the book popular and readable, characterize this prize volume; written by a brilliant, devout young man only twenty-eight years of age.

For a clear understanding of presuppositionism, as advocated in our day by a significant group of earnest Bible-believing scholars, Professor Carnell’s Apologetics is doubtless the best work thus far produced. The term “presuppositionism” was given me by my good friend Dr. Allan A. MacRae in a casual conversation some months ago. I caught up the word immediately as an accurate designation for a significant school of thought.

What Is Presuppositionism?

Professor Carnell illustrates the opposite of presuppositionism in the following words:

If a coin is lost on a plot of grass, obviously one can start here, or there without jeopardizing his chances of finally finding the piece of money, providing, of course, that he has enough time to cover the entire area before he turns away. (p. 123) Read the rest of this entry »