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Presuppositional Apologetics Stated and Defended Hardcover – April 25, 2010
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About the Author
Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) was once described as the man atheists fear most. He was a distinguished scholar, author, and Christian apologist. He was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the author of Theonomy in Christian Ethics, No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics, and co-author with Kenneth Gentry of House Divided: The Breakup of Dispensational Theology.
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The kindle version does not have any table of contents.
I usually read the table of contents to give me a first impression of the structure of the book.
So I guess it was a bit harder to understand at first because of that.
It was really missed but the much lower price compensate.
To his credit, Bahnsen cannot be criticized for his desire to honor Christ, the Word of God, and God’s sovereignty in salvation. Indeed, this noble desire seems to be a driving motivation throughout this entire book, for he repudiates any other approach to apologetics that appeals to the truth of God’s word based on scientific verification or logical coherence. Such appeals, in Bahnsen’s estimation, subjugate God’s word to man’s reason, and so are mere “edifices upon the ruinous sands of human autonomy” (268). Further, Bahnsen’s method is commendably consistent. His tone, if monotonous, at least does not waver.
Yet the faults in Bahnsen’s book seem to overwhelm these points of merit. Overall, he has overstated his case for presuppositional apologetics by making it the standard of whether other excellent, orthodox apologists are helping or undermining the cause of Christ. He has whittled the task of apologetics down to a very slender thread—that task of demonstrating to an unbeliever the inconsistency of the unbeliever’s worldview. This drastic reduction leaves most, if not all other, dialogue pointless, so that the apologist has more reason to castigate other apologists for their wrong methodology (anything besides presuppositional apologetics) than he has reason to actually engage in conversation with unbelievers.
Bahnsen’s preoccupation with presuppositionalism as the only right apologetic method seems not only to have excessively narrowed the apologetic task, but it also seems to have skewed his own outlook on Scripture, other apologists, the unbeliever, and the interaction with them. First, he exercises significant creativity to see warrant for presuppositional apologetics in various Scripture passages (27, 33). Second, he (stunningly) criticizes excellent Christians scholars as having a “sinful attitude” (155), as undermining the Christian faith (202), and as “foolishly” constructing their apologetics (268). He consigns them to positions they would never own, such as subjugating God’s word to human reason. It is difficult to not hear arrogance in Bahnsen’s tone when he reports that their “replies have begged questions, unduly pontificated, merely argued ad hominem, fallaciously imputed guilt and merit by association, skirted the main issue, misunderstood the criticism, and just generally failed to meet the point at hand” (136). Finally, Bahnsen seems to stereotype every unbeliever as a person who consciously rejects the existence of God and authority of Scripture. While many unbelievers do this, perhaps even more unbelievers simply have not thought deeply about what they believe. Many unbelievers do believe in the existence of God and the authority of Scripture. These unbelievers, it seems, need something different than Bahnsen’s presuppositionalism hammer. Yet instead of viewing them as sinners in need of Christ, Bahnsen seemed to view them as intellectual sparring partners, immune to everything but the one jab presuppositional apologetics can deliver.
In the preface, Bahnsen’s editor Joel McDurmon notes that “Bahnsen completed the bulk of this text at the young age of twenty-five years old” (xvi-xvii). McDurmon goes on to “compare the magnitude of this effort so early in life to Calvin’s publication of the first edition of his Institutes (1536) at the age of twenty-six” (xvii). While Bahnsen’s skills in argument were brilliant, the vast difference between him and John Calvin in breadth of wisdom, depth of thought, and unique contribution to the corpus of theological literature, renders this comparison quite unfortunate. Perhaps Bahnsen himself would have taken umbrage with the comparison, for John Calvin might not have measured up to Bahnsen’s standard of presuppositional apologetics.