Presuppositional Apologetics Stated and Defended: Book Review by Mike A. Robinson
The publishers bequeath eager Van Tilians a new and superb offering from the late Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen. Bahnsen, as a formal debater, was regarded as the “man atheists feared the most.” This new book, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, exhibits some of the reasons for such an assessment. The author has been deeply missed and this volume of systematic apologetics is a blessing to all who sought a fresh resource that would be compatible with his earlier books.
This precise and orderly defense of the faith was not available because it was lost. It was only recently discovered and brought to press. Bahnsen’s philosophical labor is clear, succinct, and commanding. The editors supply the brilliance of Bahnsen’s apologetic in a methodical and lucid manner. This is a brand new publication that helps make Van Til’s remarkable thought accessible to ordinary believers as well as the most widely read scholars. In this volume we have apologetic clarity and a philosophical depth illuminating issues surrounding a faithful defense of Christian theism. I encourage all to purchase this stupendous edition of Bahnsen’s scholarly toil to help equip the church to proclaim and defend the truth of the ontological Trinity.
Bahnsen offers many unique gems in this never-before-published volume including powerful and lengthy critiques of the apologetic systems of:
• Gordon H. Clark
• Edward Carnell
• Francis Schaeffer
• Ronald Nash (this one is brief but convincing).
Additionally he provides a plethora of Vantilian type quotes from Clark (2 ½ pages), Carnell, and Schaeffer. This alone makes PASD worth much more than the cost.
This is an indispensible apologetic resource for the budding apologist as it brings Bahnsen’s apologetic to the non-specialist. Greg Bahnsen wrote that the unbeliever in principle “has no intelligible place to stand, no consistent epistemology, no justification for meaningful discourse, predication, or argumentation.” Other than that, you’re fine! Bahnsen goes on to lay bare anti-theism: he writes that “the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions for knowledge and meaningful experience.” Only Christian theism can supply the pre-essentials needed for debate, evidence, and knowledge.
Bahnsen asserts that “the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we could not be able to prove anything.” Bahnsen was once described as “the man atheists fear most” because of the controversy surrounding the Bahnsen-Martin debate, which was cancelled by Michael Martin. Some quotes: “In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything.”
“An unbeliever is not simply an unbeliever at separate points; his antagonism is rooted in an overall philosophy (Col. 2.8) which is according to the world’s tradition; thus is an enemy of God in his mind (Col. 1.21; Jam. 4.4) and uses his mind to nullify or obviate God’s word (Mk. 7.8-13).”
“In what way does knowledge go beyond belief? Knowledge includes having justification or good reason to support whatever it is you believe. Imagine that I believe there are thirty-seven square miles in a particular city, and imagine also that it just so happens that this claim is accurate – but imagine as well that I simply got this answer by guessing (rather than doing measurements, mathematics or checking an almanac, etc.). I believed something which happened to be true, but we would not say that I had ‘knowledge’ in this case because I had no justification for what I believed. When we claim to know that something is true, we are thereby claiming to have adequate evidence, proof or good reason for it.”
“Imagine a person who comes in here tonight and argues ‘no air exists’ but continues to breathe air while he argues. Now intellectually, atheists continue to breathe – they continue to use reason and draw scientific conclusions [which assumes an orderly universe], to make moral judgments [which assumes absolute values] – but the atheistic view of things would in theory make such ‘breathing’ impossible. They are breathing God’s air all the time they are arguing against him.”
I would add: Suppose my wife took my i-pod off our dining table and put it on an obscure shelf before she ate lunch. When I returned home and found it missing on the table, I phoned my wife. She said that she needed space to eat and so she put my iPod away. I asked her how I could find my iPod now that she moved it to an unknown location. She told me that she had put a post-it note on the iPod. That, of course, would not have done me, her befuddled husband any good. The portable stereo would have been hidden, and a note on a hidden stereo was lost to me until my wife informed me where she put it. Such is the problem of an unsaved person. He is lost, and cannot use his own reason or experience to find his way to truth. He is lost, and his autonomous reason is lost with him. The only way he can find the truth is through an objective, unchanging source. The God of the Bible is the unchanging rational bedrock and fountainhead.
God is the pre-necessity for self-knowledge and the intelligibility of the world. Without God, man is lost, holding his own note of a man-made holy book. Through Yahweh and His revelation a man be found and have an objective basis for truth. God is the absolute and transcendental necessity for the intelligibility of all human apprehension. He is the a priori truth condition for the grounding and understanding of knowledge.
If you do not presuppose the truth of God in Christ, in the rational hindermost, you cannot make sense out of the cosmos and reality. Christianity is true not only because it makes better sense, but because it supplies the foundation for the laws of reason; thus, it is true because without it you cannot make sense of anything. Other religions, philosophies, and worldviews lack the transcendentally required precondition (Yahweh) for predication, intelligibility, logic, ethics, and truth.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Only the transcendent, aphysical, invariant, and multi-personal-unified God can provide the necessary preconditions for the transcendent, aphysical, invariant, and multi-unified laws of logic. There is “absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism. Even non-Christians presuppose its truth while they verbally reject it.” We ask the nonbeliever “what are the conditions that make thought possible?” The Triune God furnishes those truth conditions to establish the rational flooring for intelligibility. Van Til called this truth “the method of implication into the truth of God a transcendental method. That is, we must seek to determine what presuppositions are necessary to any object of knowledge in order that it may be intelligible to us.”
Transcendental scrutiny of anti-theism demonstrates that it is self-destructive inasmuch as it fails to give what it does not possess. Man is devoid of eternal omniscience, aseity, sovereignty, and omnipotence. Bahnsen set forth transcendental analysis as that “which asks what the preconditions are for the intelligibility of human experience. Under what conditions is it possible, or what would also need to be true in order for it to be possible, to make sense of one’s experience of the world? To seek the transcendental conditions for knowing is to ask what is presupposed by any intelligent experience whatsoever.” Humankind does not need to exist for the intelligibility of the universe. Mere men cannot supply the transcendental conditions that are needed for the laws of logic, love, and morality.
Van Til contended that “the general precedes the particular” in our reality. This implies that the anthropology of atheism cannot supply the general and universal realities that must be present, for the necessary and unavoidable transcendental conditions listed above.
Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen had heart valve implant surgery on December 5, 1995. After the completion of the operation, serious complications developed within twenty-four hours. He then became comatose for several days and died on December 11, 1995 at the age of forty-seven.
See the New Book that contends for the existence of God using a Presuppositional Apologetic view
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity: HERE
or additionally see the new Presuppositional Apologetics book on world religions – One Way to God: Christian Philosophy and Presuppositional Apologetics Examine World Religions HERE