Theological Division


Systematic Theology


John Bolt

Reader 1

John W. Cooper

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)


Cornelius Van Til, Reformed dogmatics, Herman Bavinck, Neo-Calvinist


The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that Cornelius Van Til’s (1895–1987) presupposition of Reformed dogmatics is largely a presupposition of Herman Bavinck’s (1854–1921) Gereformeerde Dogmatiek. The argument proceeds in three steps. First, by situating Van Til’s life and work in the neo-Calvinist intellectual milieu within which he operated throughout his career, the prevailing Copernican interpretation of Van Til’s thought is challenged on the grounds of historical abstraction. Second, his formal, material, and polemical appropriations of Bavinck’s Dogmatiek are analyzed in order to show not only that Van Til appropriates Bavinck’s thought pervasively, but also that his apologetics cannot be properly understood apart from Bavinck’s dogmatics. Third, Van Til’s criticisms of the alleged scholasticism in Bavinck’s thought are analyzed in terms of their originality and their validity. Regarding the former, it is argued that Van Til tacitly appropriates Herman Dooyeweerd’s (1894–1977) earlier criticisms of neo-Calvinist scholasticism. Regarding the latter, it is argued that Van Til’s criticisms are methodologically unsound and historically untenable insofar as they proceed upon subjective premises and lead to a subjective conclusion. In sum, given both his pervasive appropriation of Bavinck’s Dogmatiek and his entrenchment in neo-Calvinist theology and philosophy, Van Til is more accurately interpreted as a neo-Calvinist rather than a Copernican revolutionary.



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