In an earlier post I noted that Cornelius Van Til found issue with Francis Schaeffer’s lacking Calvinism. https://douglasdouma.com/2016/05/27/francis-schaeffer-pseudo-calvinist/
Van Til also found issue with the apologetics of Schaeffer, his former student at Westminster Theological Seminary. (note: after studying at WTS for a year, Schaeffer transferred to and graduated from Faith Seminary). Van Til later wrote, but did not publish, a critique of Schaeffer’s apologetic (“The Apologetic Methodology of Francis Schaeffer” 1977, 54pp).
Anyways, I recently found a letter of Van Til’s in a collection of one of his friends. In the letter, of January 8, 1971, Van Til writes:
“Francis Schaeffer’s position has one basic weakness in it. It is well stated in the illustration about the universe and two chairs that he uses. The Christian says to the materialist that all he says is fine, but that he has only half of the orange. No Roman Catholic apologist said anything worse than that. It would mean that Christianity is nothing more than a second story to be added to the first story built according to the specifications of the natural man. This approach fits in wonderfully well with Butler’s analogy and with Thomas Aquinas’ approach.”
“I do not understand Schaeffer on this point. He was here as a student and he seemed to agree with me, and a few years ago he still said that he was in large measure in agreement with me, but certainly at this critical juncture he follows a different path. I am sorry for this. He has great influence with the IVF group.”
For more on the topic of Van Til and Schaeffer see:
Two Christian Warriors: Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer Compared by William Edgar
Edit: I’ve found the preface to Van Til’s syllabus on Schaeffer:
“I have written this paper on Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s apologetics at the request of a number of WTS students. There has been a difference between these students on the question of Dr. Schaeffer’s apologetic procedure. Some have asked me, Is not his view essentially the same as yours? Does not he, as well as you, speak of the biblical position as the presupposition of the possibility of predication? Is not the difference between you two merely that Schaeffer mingles directly with non-Christian intellectuals, while you develop your ’system’ over against ’systems’ found only in books?
Others say: No, there is a difference between you two. Schaeffer uses the word presupposition but he does not mean by it what you mean by it. He does not agree with you when you say that the natural man’s basic starting-point is that of pure autonomy, correlative to pure contingent factuality, correlative to pure abstract or formal rationality; and that therefore the natural man cannot identify himself or anything beside himself and therefore cannot account for human predication. For all of Schaeffer’s claim to use a presuppositional or biblical approach, his method is still basically similar to that of the traditional Aquinas-Butler approach.
Now I agree with the opinion of the second group. From time to time I have verbally expressed the difference between Dr. Schaeffer’s position and my own. At one time I wrote Dr. Schaeffer a long memorandum about my difficulty with his approach. He could find no time to reply. In more recent times I have written notices on some of his books, and letters in answer to inquiries about his views. Dr. Schaeffer has by this time expressed his views on many modern problems in a number of publications. With great earnestness he urges the Christian view of men and things upon the college-age young people of our day. Is his method of doing so the fully biblical one? Or is it, perhaps, an attempt to combine the biblical and the traditional method?
This syllabus deals with these questions. It contains several items written independently of one another at different times. Their unity is found in that they follow Dr. Schaeffer as he has sought to help Christian young people express their Christian belief in a proper way to their non-Christian friends.”-from the Preface
2 thoughts on “A Cornelius Van Til quote on Francis Schaeffer”
Thanks for sharing that with us. I’m sharing this in our blog’s next Presup round up on Sunday.
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