Review: William White’s Van Til: Defender of the Faith

616980White’s biography, Van Til: Defender of the Faith, is a simple and delightful look at the life of Van Til. This is not a critical look at Van Til’s life and thought. It is a well written, brief overview of the life of a defender of the faith.

It is remarkably personable. I really appreciated the many anecdotes: John Murray’s glass eye and his harsh grading, a bare naked atheist, and nobody, nobody understands Van Til. If one were to just read Van Til they would have a very incomplete picture. White’s work helps round him out a bit more, creating a more human version of Van Til. (side note: I always tried to read biographies or autobiographies of those whom I read and research).

I am always deeply saddened to read about the glory and fall of Princeton (David Calhoun’s two volume work on Princeton is remarkable). White also provides a helpful, though cursory, look at Van Til and his critics. It was helpful to see how Van Til fit in to Princeton, the struggle over modernism, and the newly created Westminster Theological Seminary.

The chapters which dealt with Van Til in the classroom were my favorite. I was a bit disappointed that there was not more detail on his family life. At the time of this books writing Van Til was still alive.

Van Til’s passion for missions was also on display with short write ups on his trips to the Orient and Mexico. Van Til longed to be a country pastor, but he answered God’s call to the classroom.

The two appendixes are helpful additions. White only provided a very simplistic outline of Van Til’s thought so an outline of “My Credo” and the lecture on Common Grace and Point of Contact (ankennungsfubgpunkt) were helpful.

This is a basic but helpful and enjoyable starting point to the life and thought of Van Til. It’s not deep, but it creates an interest to go deeper.

John Frame’s review of White’s Van Til: Defender of the Faith:…. While I appreciate Frame’s review I believe he asks too much of the book. This is, as Frame recognizes, an authentic portrait, it is not a detailed critical biography. Take the book for what it is. Frame is helpful though for pointing out some factual errors in White’s work.

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