Salomon van Til (1643–1713)

His Appropriation of Cartesian Tenets in His Compendium of Natural Theology

In: Church History and Religious Culture
Matthias Mangold ETF Leuven, Belgium

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In recent decades theologians and intellectual historians have given considerable attention to the dissemination of Cartesianism in the seventeenth century Dutch Republic. Scholars have focused primarily on the initial reception of Descartes’s ideas, the early reactions from his major critics and the more radical expressions of Cartesianism later on. Only in recent years have scholars begun to realize the considerable impact that moderate second-generation Cartesian theologians exerted on the intellectual climate in the Netherlands of the eighteenth century. Salomon van Til (1643–1713) ranks high among these thinkers. Yet despite his international reputation at that time, Van Til has been almost completely neglected in current research. This article analyzes Van Til’s appropriation of Cartesian tenets within his Compendium of Natural Theology (1704). Paying close attention to his intellectual context, it argues that the substantial usage of central elements of the Cartesian outlook, clearly manifested both in the method and in the content of the Compendium, should be interpreted in light of Van Til’s apologetic goal: to defend the Christian faith against the perceived onslaught of unbelief.

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