A Critical Review of Bahnsen’s Book Presuppositional Apologetics

“A Critical Review of Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended”

___________________________________________

Submitted to

Mr. David Gunn

At

Clarks Summit University

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In Partial Fulfillment of

the Requirements for the course

TH527 – Studies in Presuppositional Apologetics

In the Division of Apologetics

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Andrew Thomas Knight

DMIN Luther Rice Seminary, 2014

MRE West Coast Baptist College, 2010

MBS Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004

BB Pensacola Christian College, 1994

February 18, 2017

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION………………………………….………………….. 1

Bahnsen’s Stated Purposes……………..………….……………….. 2

A Positive Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book..……………….…………… 3

A Negative Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book…..……..……..…………… 4

The Final Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book..……………………..………. 5

CONCLUSION………………………………………………………….. 5

Final Thoughts on Bahnsen’s Apologetics….……………………….. 5

INITIAL SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY …………………………………… 6

INTRODUCTION

This student will first outline the author’s stated objectives of this book. Secondly, this

student will give some major positive points of this book. Thirdly, several negative points will be

brought to light. Next, a final analysis will be offered up of Bahnsen’s book on presuppositional

apologetics. Then, a few final thoughts will be given relative to Bahnsen’s writing.

Bahnsen’s Stated Purposes

Bahnsen gave several reasons for the purpose of his book. First, he wanted to make the

argument that the purpose of presuppositional apologetics is to bring glory to God. He stated,

“A truly Christian defense of the faith must never fail to exalt Christ as Lord over all, including

argumentation and reasoning. An apologist that builds on any other rock that Christ does not

honor the greatness of divine wisdom; it is foolish and audaciously erected on the ruinous sands

of human authority.”[1] Bahnsen’s concern was that Christ would be honored above all else.

Secondly, Bahnsen argues for the method of presuppositional apologetics. He explained,

“The purpose of this treaties is to exhibit presuppositional apologetics as the only faithful and

sound method of centending for the Christian hope and biblical message. Resting upon the

authority of the living God rather than that of independent human reasoning, the apologist must

presuppose the truth of Scripture and lay siege to all apostate presuppositions.”[2] Bahnsen here

wanted to make sure that his readers knew that the final authority was the basis for his

apologetic.

Thirdly, Bahnsen made his argument for God being the standard of his apologetic when

he stated, “Here we see that the ultimate standard for the Christian must always be the self-

attesting Word of God.”[3] He made the case that nothing or no one could be a higher standard

than the Bible.

Fourthly, Bahnsen made the argument for the existence of God per our ability to reason

and consider logic. He stated, “What the apologist must endeavor to do is to demonstrate that

without Christian presuppositions there is no intelligible use of facts and logic – that human

knowledge and inspiration fail instantly.”[4] Bahnsen made this important argument in his stated

purpose.

The final purpose stated by Bahnsen was holding to a biblical epistemology. He stated,

”In the following studies I aim to present biblical and epistemological reflections which point us

toward a presuppositional defense of the faith, clarify and defend this apologetic method by

responding to certain popular criticisms of it, and then compare it with a few basic, other kinds

of apologetic strategy which are promoted today.”[5] He wants his apologetic to be one that is of a

biblical philosophy.

A Positive Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book

The author, Greg Bahnsen used chapter two to make a good argument for a biblical

apologetic and the biblical source for which the apologist’ epistemology is drawn from.

Bahnsen stated, “Although a presuppositional approach in apologetics is demanded

epistemologically, the ultimate source of strength for such a method of defending the faith must

come from the self-attested, inspired Word of God itself. We should expect this to be the case for

a biblical presuppositionalist!”[6] Bahnsen referenced a lot of Scripture that was applicable to

apologetics, Proverbs 5:1 “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my

understanding:” This of course is edifying to see more of a biblical mandate for apologetics.

In chapter five Edward Carnell deals with the important subject of possibilism, where

Carnell wrote, “But the truth is that the natural man always attacks the gospel in the name of

autonomous thought—even when one uses a diluted apologetic that embodies autonomous

principles itself!”[7] The argument is well received in that in order to have a credible epistemology

one must believe in the absolute, infallible truth of the Word of God.

A Negative Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book

The negative aspects of this book are similar to much of, the history of Christianity. Or

what this student calls, the history of heresy, which is to say when drilling down to see what

men like Clark and Schaeffer believe relative to their apologetic it seems somewhat dark.

Bahnsen referenced Schaeffer’s apologetic this way, “It is not verified (contrary to Schaeffer),

and that is because it is God’s authoritative, clear (cognitive) Word of truth necessary to all other

intellectual endeavors (contrary to neo-orthodoxy).” [8] This is a disappointing discovery

regarding this legendary apologist, Schaeffer. This condescending attitude toward the authority

of Scripture is apparent with other apologists as Bahnsen discussed, “Thus far we see that the

non-presuppositional apologetics of Clark, Carnell, and Schaeffer is stranded between a logical

fallacy and (for lack of omniscience) skepticism.”[9] The lesson here is would seems to be clear is

that one should have an unshakable belief in the supremacy of Scripture long before one goes

into the business of being an apologist.

The Final Analysis of Bahnsen’s Book

This student enjoyed reading and studying Bahnsen’s book on Presuppositional

Apologetics, and was insightful to numerous apologists and their thought processes. It was clear

that Bahnsen had as a main objective was to glorify the Lord. Next, Bahnsen argued for, in his

book, the common faith. In his final analysis it is ones faith in the Lord. Bahnsen did make the

case throughout his book that in fact the final authority for epistemology is the Word of God.

This student tends to think it would be difficult to make any other argument when contending for

the faith. Bahnsen did argue though out this work that the supremacy of Scripture far outweighs

human logic, and he made the argument that there could be no logic without presuppositional

truth. It would seem as though Bahnsen gave a helpful analysis of several other philosophies of

apologetics, and that he wanted his readers to know that the most faithful approach to apologetics

is one with presuppositions that truth is found in the Bible, though reasoning ought to be wider

rather than a narrow circular reasoning in the advance of the truth.

CONCLUSION

Final Thoughts on Bahnsen’s Apologetics

The required reading on Bahnsen’s book, Presuppositional Apologetics was a well

written and researched work that offered a fair assessment of these apologists, Clark, Carnell,

and Schaeffer. Bahnsen also offered a good and in depth analysis of several different approaches

to apologetics. He made strong arguments for the supremacy of Scripture, and the significance of

presuppositional apologetics, and some weaknesses of placing logic and reason above the Bible.

INITIAL SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPGY

Bahnsen, Greg L. Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2011.

  1. Greg L. Bahnsen. Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2011), 3.
  2. Ibid., 4.
  3. Ibid., 12.
  4. Bahnsen, 14.
  5. Ibid., 23.
  6. Ibid. 25.
  7. Ibid., Bahnsen, 207.
  8. Ibid., 250.
  9. Ibid., 265.

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