Colin Smith has kindly responded to my brief post addressing the idea of Van Til's idea of the one person in the Trinity. It may indeed be true that for many people "occupying pews in evangelicalism", the idea that the one essence of the Godhead is personal is a novelty to them. Such would indeed be sad if true. My experience so far has not been that evangelicals think that the Godhead is impersonal, but that they don't even understand the Trinity at all. In other words, they cannot even tell you what the Trinity means except the most elementary basics that 1) God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three persons, 2) there is only one God. One would probably be greeted by blank stares just mentioning the word "essence".
Van Til's motives on this issue, if true, is indeed commendable. However, I fail to see how creating a novel definition of "person" will help the argument regarding the Trinity. If the Chalcedonian formula works for the church for the last 1500 years without it generating confusion in the church, how exactly is a novel definition, which is a seeming antinomy, clarify our understanding of the issue further? Instead, after Van Til propose the formula, people like Gordon Clark have denounced it as heretical. Assuming that Van Til was orthodox, which we have no reason to doubt, of what benefit therefore is his confusing formulation of the Trinity? One could hardly think of a quicker way for a Reformed theologian to destroy his reputation than to do what Van Til did in creating his own idiosyncratic definition of the word "Person". Left to a lesser pastor or theologian, the guy who make such a proposal would probably be charged for heresy and excommunicated by the Church. After all, they excommunicated Nestorius who may not have actually believed what we come to know as Nestorianism!
Regardless, we can certainly agree with Smith that God is His essence is a personal being. Indeed, if all Van Till said was that God in His essence is personal, I sincerely doubt anyone will have a big problem with that. Why Van Til did not see fit to use that phrase is something we probably will not know this side of eternity.
Since that is so, it would certainly be interesting to follow Smith in his explication of the implications of the personal nature of God in the area of apologetics. Readers can also peruse his paper in advance. Just substitute the word "person" with "personal", and I think all would be fine.