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Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  403 ratings  ·  66 reviews

Defending the faith can be daunting, and a well-reasoned and biblically grounded apologetic is essential for the challenge. Following in the footsteps of groundbreaking apologist Cornelius Van Til, Scott Oliphint presents us with an introduction to Reformed apologetics as he sets forth the principles behind a distinctly “covenantal” approach. This book clearly explains the

Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published July 31st 2013 by Crossway (first published July 1st 2013)
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This book was good in more carefully defining presuppositional apologetics as covenantal apologetics, but Dr. Oliphint's denial of divine impassibility does impact his methodology, and without an immutable God we do not have an immutable standard for the preconditions of intelligibility: morality, logic, uniformity of nature, etc. Theology matters, your apologetic is only as strong as your theological foundation. The audience level for this book is for those who have already read some books and ...more
Benjamin Glaser
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
Dr. Oliphint attempts (wisely so imo) to ditch the word "presuppositional" and use "covenantal" to describe the Van Tillian approach to Apologetics. In other words the world is made up of two kinds of people, covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers. Everyone is in "covenant" with God. Therefore "Covenantal Apologetics" seeks to help people recognize that: 1) They are in covenant with God. 2) They are a covenant-breaker and their reality is "Oz" vs. the believer's "Kansas", 3) and are in need of ...more
Kyle Oliphint
Excellent! Will reread it every couple of years. This book is rooted in God's Word with the truth of the gospel faithfully communicated/defended for the glory of the Trinity.
Jacob Aitken
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apologetics
I’ve long suspected that we need to ditch the term “presuppositional.” I don’t think Van Til ever really used it and among both his defenders and critics, engaging the term often reveals hopeless ineptitude. So right off the bat we can judge Oliphint’s book a marginal success, even if he doesn’t get anything else right. But I think he does.

This is a marked improvement upon his Battle Belongs to the Lord, which was so elementary that it was helpful to a very few. I should note my sympathies.
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, apologetics
Presuppositional apologetics has had a difficult time breaking into the mainstream of Christian apologetics. It is easy to see why, when is largely the discovery of Cornelius Van Til, who though a brilliant thinker, is a difficult writer to grasp. He is intellectually challenging, and frankly, out of the intellectual range of most people.

There have been many attempts to popularize him. I’ve read Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic and John Frame’s Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought,
While Covenantal Apologetics gives a great biblical foundation for apologetics, it falters in how we should winsomely put those principles into practice.


Oliphant made an excellent argument for why we should use the term "covenantal apologetics," as opposed to the term "presuppositional apologetics." I was kind of skeptical at the beginning of the necessity of this change, and while it's still not a hill to die over, he did make a compelling case for why we should prefer the former term.

Brian Collins
Covenantal apologetics is Oliphint's name for Van Tillian presuppositionalism. Oliphint chooses this name because he finds presuppositionalism an inadequate term (there are multiple kinds of presuppositionalism and the existence of presuppositions is hardly news in a post-modern context) and because a key part of Oliphint's apologetic is that the transcendent God relates to mankind covenantally.
The book unpacks ten tenets:
1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily
Steve Hemmeke
Solid defense of Van Til’s apologetic method.

Premise: We should argue for Christianity from its supernatural revelation, not from a natural theology or bare Deism or rational approach. When we critique atheism and Christian skeptics, we should point out their own inconsistencies, rather than argue from "neutral" reason.

For example. In answer to skeptics who ask how an unchanging God can become incarnate, we should appeal to Athanasian and Chalcedonian thought, not fall back to what the modern
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Accessible Approach to Reformed Apologetics

Although Oliphant characterizes his book as a translation of Van Til's Reformed apologetics, it broadens the scope and makes it more accessible to a general audience. In fact, he is responsible for making it more Christ-centered and proposing the name change from presuppositional apologetics to convenantal apologetics. Like other reviewers, I find this term much easier to understand and makes clear our covenantal relationship to God.

Chapters one
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is easy to read, but its aims seem mixed. It should either be a education of Covenant Theology OR a book seeking to change the approach of presuppositional apologetics or a book for high school students and the average joe to read on how to convince their atheist friends that they are 'living' Christianity whether they admit it or not. The book can't be all things to all people.
A very good book. I think all Christians who find themselves contending for the faith once and all received should take time to read and consider covenantal apologetics.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apologetics. Epistemology. Thomism. Van Tillian Presuppositionalism. Terminology can be a beast sometimes. Labels, which are designed to communicate substantial amounts of truth in a word or few, are less than helpful when a person is unfamiliar with them and can become detrimental when either the meaning of the label is debated or the label itself is misunderstood.

I still remember at a church where I was on staff that I found out through the grapevine that I believed only 144,000 people would
Benjamin Thompson
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oliphint brings a number of helpful insights to the table. Namely, the importance of keeping apologetics theologically and Christologically full-blooded. Our apologetics should be informed by our theology, not the other way around. In offensive apologetics, his method is incredibly powerful, but it seems lacking in defensive apologetics. In answering critics Oliphint seems content simply to quote scripture, the Creeds and the Confessions of the early church and the Reformation without digging ...more
Adam Smith
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helpful enough. Almost rated it 3 stars. I guess I was looking for fruit that hung a little lower, but it was a little easier to understand than Van Til’s Apologetics.

Good stuff on persuasion. Pretty biblical. I like his idea to rename Presuppositional Apologetics “Covenantal Apologetics.” His attempt at giving examples of possible conversations was good. He should supplement the book by sharing videos of actual conversations.

In all I feel like it made a helpful contribution to rounding out my
Joe Carvajal
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it is an excellent book but a primer in philosophy is helpful before reading this book. I appreciate Oliphint's striving towards espousing a Scriptural, Covenantal apologetic but found his verbatim-type conversations utilizing way more systematic theology and philosophy than I had hoped. Nonetheless, an excellent read and something that I have found edifying in my faith with Christ and helpful in approaching and analyzing apologetic conversations.
Fletcher Lang
I really wanted to like this book. But there were some things that I couldn't get over. The author seemed to swap audiences each chapter - going super academic at times and then super lay-level. It just wasn't well done. I still like presuppositional apologetics, but I hope another modern apologetic comes out on its behalf.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy, what a beast of a book, but what a beneficial piece to read. Every christian should learn the covenantal approach, or at least listen through RTS's apologetics series with John Frame. An easier version of this apologetic is brought forth in "The ultimate proof of creation" by Jason lisle. I expect to read that next!
Michael LeDuc
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in apologetics and defending your faith, this book is an excellent introduction to to what is known as presuppositional apologetics. K. Scott Oliphint offers insight on how we should defend Christianity with persuasion and a foundation of God authority, revealed in the world and in the scriptures, and not neutrality.
Laurent Dv
Good overall book, good biblical insights and foundations for "covenantal apologetics " (presuppositionnalism). I found the dialogs a bit too long, hard and complex to understand for a book which claims to be an easy read. Perhaps, you should read Bahnsen instead.
Courtney Schmidt
A helpful introduction to covenantal apologetics in a way that is simpler than most (VT) yet is still packed with philosophical language that makes you think. Sample dialogues of practice are semi-useful more for the future than for now as I just gain an intro into the Van Tillian world of AP.
Jenai Hamilton
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You need time to read this one. There's a lot of information to take in and a lot to chew on. I took a ton of breaks as I read simply because it took time to mull over and comprehend all that Oliphint throws at you. But still worth while.
Caleb Blevins
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good book. I did not like how in chapters 4-7 Oliphint uses an ongoing sample conversation to show covenantal apologetics are work. Other than that, great read for people interested in defending the faith.
Earl Rodgers
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
This book will help you understand how to spread the gospel in a more loving a through persuasion.
David Bebber
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been working to better understand Covenantal Apologetics for about three years now. I wish I would have started with this book.
Juan Reyes
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, apologetics
“Covenantal Apologetics” by K. Scott Oliphint is more a book about how to do apologetics than apologetics itself. The methodology proposed by Oliphint comes in the tradition of Cornelius Van Til, but also draws from the work of Alvin Plantinga. The author, however, doesn’t seek to speak mainly from a tradition in apologetics per se, but from principles found in Scripture. This is his goal, to do apologetics in a way that is faithful to Scripture (and therefore in a way that honors God). Many ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
1. Always Ready
Oliphint defines covenantal apologetics and presents the ten tenets of this approach.
To try to know ourselves without knowing God would be like trying to know our image in a mirror when we are not standing in front of it. There would be no image because the "original" would not be there.
Man's denial of God is not something that's done in ignorance. It is evidence of the suppression of the knowledge of God within us.

2. Set Christ Apart as Lord
How, then, ought we to think of a God
Simon Wartanian
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and biblically faithful. The dialogues were especially helpful.
Jacob O'connor
I read this book a few years ago and wasn’t particularly impressed. My pastor swears by it, so I gave it another try. Still not particularly impressed. Oliphint attempts to make Cornelius Van Til's teachings more accessible. He succeeds. This alone makes the book worth the read, but Oliphint loses much of the magic in translation. I'm a presuppositionalist. I think Van Til was right, but perhaps Oliphint shook my confidence that this is the right approach in apologetics.

My favorite insight is
Will Turner
Oliphint offers a solid introduction to presuppositional apologetics. I like his attempted re-name, "Covenantal Apologetics" but I honestly don't see it sticking. I appreciate the clearer (different) focus it presents. All of creation (all of humanity) is in a covenantal relation to God, the creator. This covenantal relation has requirements and stipulations. This is the bedrock of all apologetics. Those in unbelief are covenant breakers. This changes things for apologetics and evangelism.

Originally posted in

This was the first time I read a book on Apologetics and maybe that’s the reason I found it really exciting. The concept introduced in the book is to ‘update’ the language and terms of the Presuppositional apologetics to a language that was easier to understand by the reader, and that’s true to a certain point, let me explain why.

K. Scott Oliphint is no stranger to this subject, he’s a professor of apologetics and systematic theology at the Westminster
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Dr. K. Scott Oliphint Is professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is a graduate of West Texas State University (B.A., 1978) and Westminster (M.A.R., 1983; Th.M, 1984; Ph.D., 1994). An ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Dr. Oliphint served in pastoral ministry in Texas before coming to Westminster in 1991. He is the author of ...more
“We know that when we speak the truth found in Christianity, we are automatically “connecting” that truth with the truth that God has given through his creation.4 No other religion makes that connection, since every other religion is a suppression of the truth.” 2 likes
“The Bible is authoritative not because we accept it as such, but because it is the word of the risen Lord. It has a claim on all people. Its truth is the truth for every person in every place.” 1 likes
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