I'm having to read a bit of Van Til, the Dutch-American Reformed apologist, and although I don't have the time (or, frankly, inclination) to enter into a proper detailed analysis of what I'm reading, here are a few thoughts which may or may not be of interest to someone. Some of this would certainly apply to some other apologists I've read.
1. Too much system, not enough story. For Van Til, the history of Christ is part of the Christian theistic system. I wonder whether the strong Calvinist emphasis on the priority of eternity over time (and note that in some form or other I would certainly want to endorse that priority!) means that there just isn't really space for narrative here? All of history is implicitly just the outplaying of the pre-established system... Anyway, the upshot is that we end up arguing over systems, and not reporting news.
2. Too many straight lines, not enough cross. I think that Van Til thinks that that if we just start in the right place, we can proceed by an orderly rational process to correct conclusions. I'm not sure what the epistemological significance of the cross is for him. If the height of God's self-revelation is the death of his Son, can we reliably draw any straight lines in our thinking? The cross doesn't just contradict the world's wisdom. leaving thinking that is committed to the 'Christian theistic system' untouched and able to go on its merry way; it is a call for the constant crucifixion of all our systems.
3. Too much fight, not enough victory. I think related to the system/story thing. Van Til talks a lot about the encounter between the Christian and non-Christian worldviews as a struggle of life and death, as a war without compromise. I suppose if you have two static systems of thought, that might be so. But we don't have a system of thought, we have a story, and the story is of God's victory over everything that opposes him. It's as that story makes itself true in the experience of an individual that people will turn.
4. Too much presupposing, not enough surprise. Connected to the straight lines thing, I don't quite see how you can read the Bible and not see that God's salvation plan is a surprise! It doesn't need people to first accept any set of presuppositions; the resurrection of Jesus bursts onto the scene and carries with it the power to communicate despite people's different intellectual starting points.
5. Too much submission, not enough salvation. I believe in the Lordship of Christ, but Van Til stresses submission to his Lordship as the first implicit step in thinking in any way that might qualify as rational. To be honest, at points he sounds more Islamic than Christian - all about submission rather than salvation, Lordship rather than love.
I suppose I was never going to enjoy reading someone who once published a book called Christianity and Barthianism. But at least now I've clarified for myself why I think he's so jolly awful.