Cornelius Van Til was the pioneer of presuppositional apologetics, and was one of the founding members of Westminster Theological Seminary. The defenses of faith that he developed sought to apply the Reformed tradition to apologetics.

With Easter almost here this year, I was wondering how Van Til would address the resurrection with unbelievers? In particular, did he use historical proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

What was Van Til's view on the use and validity of historical proofs for the resurrection?

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    I proposed to edit out ‘or would he...’. It is impossible to presume, posthumously, what a theologian would....or would not... Apr 3, 2018 at 6:47
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    @Abstractioniseverything. grin it's tough enough sometimes to grasp what they express what they did, or did not, assert. Apr 24, 2020 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


Presuppositional apologetics eschews using worldview-neutral facts which other types apologetics such as Evidential apologetics use as common ground for the starting point of the defense of Christianity, especially to non-believers. So it makes sense for evidential apologetics to start with historically verifiable resurrection event. This question wonders how would Van Til, as the father of Presuppositional apologetics, would use the Resurrection in their apologetics with non-believers.

A book chapter Resurrection, Proof, and Presuppositionalism - Acts 17:30-31 by Systematic Theology professor Lane G. Tipton published in the 2007 book Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics published by P & R shows how "presuppositional apologetics in the tradition of Cornelius Van Til" tackles precisely this challenge.

Opening quotes from the book which provides the 5 propositional structure of the strategy:

The basic contention of this essay is that Paul’s conception of the resurrection as proof of final judgment in Acts 17:31b depends on revealed categories derived from redemptive history. This distinctive approach to proof places the evidential function of the resurrection in a redemptive-historical setting and supplies an exegetical line of support for presuppositional apologetics in the tradition of Cornelius Van Til. Five basic propositions summarize the argument developed in this section:

  1. Paul the theologian of redemptive history is Paul the apologist for the resurrection of Christ.

  2. Paul provides a covenant-historical conception of proof in 17:31, which rests on (a) Christ’s resurrection as an eschatological event, and (b) Christ’s resurrection as a covenantal (or solidaric) event.

  3. Paul refuses to separate the denotation (fact) of the resurrection from the connotation (meaning) of the resurrection, because the fact and meaning of the resurrection are covenantally and eschatologically qualified.

  4. As such, Paul’s notion of proof cannot be reduced to an ordinary, standard, philosophical conception of proof (e.g., based on rational reflection, empirical observation, or pragmatic utility), since it rests on revealed categories derived from redemptive history.

  5. Paul’s argument requires us to rethink or at least reorient the discipline of apologetics in light of redemptive-historical categories.


Paul’s argument on Mars Hill therefore lends strong support to the development of presuppositional apologetics. A careful analysis of his conception of proof gives us an opportunity to enrich apologetics in light of redemptive-historically regulated exegesis. As we seize that opportunity, the disciplines of biblical and systematic theology will stand in a much more organic relationship to our defense of the faith, and will place us in a better position to demonstrate the deep lines of continuity between Reformed theology and Reformed apologetics.

  • Great... except I haven't a clue what he's on about. May 25, 2020 at 15:44
  • @AndrewShanks Which part do you have difficulty with? The question, or the answer? Anything I can clarify on the answer? Who is "he"? Van Til or Lane Tipton? May 25, 2020 at 21:13
  • Thanks GD, I don't understand the answer. Lane Tipton. Maybe I'm dumb, but I don't know what the answer really means. Something more direct would be appreciated in answer to the final emboldened question of the OP. (Is Lane saying Van Til would approve of historical proofs of the resurrection or not?) Thanks again, Andrew May 26, 2020 at 2:21

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