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Always Ready - Directions For Defending The Faith


Always Ready

Directions For Defending The Faith

Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen

 The Nature of the Apologetic Situation:

1. The controversy between the believer and unbeliever is in principle an antithesis between two complete systems of thought involving ultimate commitments and assumptions.

2. Even laws of thought and method, along with factual evidence, will be accepted and evaluated in light of one's governing presup­positions.

3. All chains of argumentation, especially over matters of ultimate per­sonal importance, trace back to and depend upon starting points which are taken to be self-evidencing; thus circularity in debate will be unavoidable. However, not all circles are intelligible or valid.

4. Thus appeals to logic, fact, and personality may be necessary, but they are not apologetically adequate; what is needed is not piece­meal replies, probabilities, or isolated evidences but rather an at­tack upon the underlying presuppositions of the unbeliever's sys­tem of thought.

5. The unbeliever's way of thinking is characterized as follows:
a. By nature the unbeliever is the image of God and, therefore, inescapably religious; his heart testifies continually, as does also the clear revelation of God around him, to God's existence and character.
b. But the unbeliever exchanges the truth for a lie. He is a fool who refuses to begin his thinking with reverence for the Lord; he will not build upon Christ's self-evidencing words and sup­presses the unavoidable revelation of God in nature.
c. Because he delights not in understanding but chooses to serve the creature rather than the Creator, the unbeliever is self-confidently committed to his own ways of thought; being con­vinced that he could not be fundamentally wrong, he flaunts perverse thinking and challenges the self-attesting word of God.

d. Consequently, the unbeliever's thinking results in ignorance; in his darkened futile mind he actually hates knowledge and can gain only a "knowledge" falsely so-called.
e. To the extent that he actually knows anything, it is due to his unacknowledged dependence upon the suppressed truth about God within him. This renders the unbeliever intellectually schizophrenic: by his espoused way of thinking he actually "op­poses himself" and shows a need for a radical "change of mind" (repentance) unto a genuine knowledge of the truth.
f. The unbeliever's ignorance is culpable because he is without excuse for his rebellion against God's revelation; hence he is "without an apologetic" for his thoughts.
g. His unbelief does not stem from a lack of factual evidence but from his refusal to submit to the authoritative word of God from the beginning of his thinking.

The Requirements of the Apologist:

1. The apologist must have the proper attitude; he must not be arro­gant or quarrelsome, but with humility and respect he must argue in a gentle and peaceable manner.

The apologist must have the proper starting point; he must take God's word as his self-evidencing presupposition, thinking God's thoughts after Him (rather than attempting to be neutral), and view­ing God's word as more sure than even his personal experience of the facts.

3. The apologist must have the proper method; working on the unbeliever's unacknowledged presuppositions and being firmly grounded in his own, the apologist must aim to cast down every high imagination exalted against the knowledge of God by aiming to bring every thought (his own, as well as his opponent's) captive to the obedience of Christ.

4. The apologist must have the proper goal: securing the unbeliever's unconditional surrender without compromising one's own fidel­ity.

a. The word of the cross must be used to expose the utter pseudo-wisdom of the world as destructive foolishness,
b. Christ must be set apart as Lord in one's heart, thus acknowl­edging no higher authority than God's word and refusing to suspend intellectual commitment to its truth.

The Procedure for Defending the Faith:

1. Realizing that the unbeliever is holding back the truth in unrighteous­ness, the apologist should reject the foolish presuppositions im­plicit in critical questions and attempt to educate his opponent.

2. This involves presenting the facts within the context of the Biblical
philosophy of fact:
a. God is the sovereign determiner of possibility and impossibility.
b. A proper reception and understanding of the facts requires sub­mission to the Lordship of Christ.
c. Thus the facts will be significant to the unbeliever only if he has a presuppositional change of mind from darkness to light.
d. Scripture has authority to declare what has happened in history and to interpret it correctly.

3. The unbeliever's espoused presuppositions should be forcefully at­tacked, asking whether knowledge is possible, given them:
a. In order to show that God has made foolish the wisdom of the world the believer can place himself on the unbeliever's posi­tion and answer him according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceits; that is, demonstrate the outcome of unbelieving thought with its assumptions.
b. The unbeliever's claims should be reduced to impotence and impossibility by an internal critique of his system; that is, dem­onstrate the ignorance of unbelief by arguing from the impos­sibility of anything contrary to Christianity.

The apologist should appeal to the unbeliever as the image of God who has God's clear and inescapable revelation, thus giving him an ineradicable knowledge of God; this knowledge can be exposed by indicating unwitting expressions or by pointing to the "bor­rowed capital" (un-admitted presuppositions) which can be found in the unbeliever's position.

5. The apologist should declare the self-evidencing and authoritative truth of God as the precondition of intelligibility and man's only way of salvation (from all the effects of sin, including ignorance and intellectual vanity):
a. Lest the apologist become like the unbeliever, he should not answer him according to his folly but according to God's word,
b. The unbeliever can be invited to put himself on the Christian position in order to see that it provides the necessary grounds for intelligible experience and factual knowledge—thereby con­cluding that it alone is reasonable to hold and the very founda­tion for proving anything whatsoever.

c. The apologist can also explain that Scripture accounts for the unbeliever's state of mind (hostility) and the failure of men to acknowledge the necessary truth of God's revelation; moreover, Scripture provides the only escape from the effects of this hos­tility and failure (futility and damnation).

Quotable Quotes From Greg Bahnsen – Always Ready

The unbeliever opposes the Christian faith with a whole, antithetical system of thought-not simply with piecemeal criticisms. His attack is aimed not merely at certain random points of Christian teaching, but at its foundation. The particular criticisms utilized by the unbeliever rest upon basic key assumptions which unify and inform his thinking. It is this presuppositional root which the apologist must aim to eradicate if his defense of the faith is to be effective.

Because the unbeliever has such an implicit system of thought directing his attack on the faith, the Christian can never be satisfied to defend the hope that is in him by merely stringing together isolated evidences which offer a slight probability of the Bible’s veracity. Each particular item of evidence will be evaluated by the unbeliever’s tacit assumptions; his general worldview will provide the context in which the evidential claim is understood and weighed. What one presupposes as to possibility will even determine how he rates "probability."

An unbeliever is not simply an unbeliever at separate points; his antagonism is rooted in an overall philosophy which is according to the world’s tradition; thus is an enemy of God in his mind  and uses his mind to nullify or obviate God’s word.

The Christian can then teach the unbeliever that all wisdom and knowledge must take Jesus Christ as its reference point . The believer’s thinking, just as the unbeliever’s is grounded in a self-validating starting-point. This ultimate truth must be an expression of God’s mind; He alone speaks with unquestionable authority and self-attesting veracity. Thus Jesus categorically claimed to be the truth.  
                                                                                                                                                  G. Bahnsen, Always Ready, pp. 67-69

The Great Debate: Greg Bahnsen vs Gordon Stein

Dr. Greg Bahnsen became known as the man atheists fear most. This is because Harvard-educated Dr. Michael Martin was scheduled to debate Dr. Bahnsen but pulled out of the debate unexpectedly. A press release at the time reported that Dr. Martin didn't want the scheduled debate recorded. However, speculation was that "...Michael Martin is afraid that he will be publicly humiliated just as his friend and fellow atheist, Dr. Gordon Stein, was..."
The Great Debate
transcript of the debate from Apologetics 315

In the academic setting of the University of California (Irvine), atheist Dr. Gordon Stein would formally debate pastor and philosopher Dr. Greg Bahnsen. But this debate would go quite differently than most. Rather than merely presenting various scientific and historical evidences for God, Dr. Bahnsen methodically showed that the Christian God must be presupposed in order to make sense of anything whatsoever! The things we take for granted such as science, morality, and even the very laws of logic used in such debates, only make sense in the Christian worldview with the biblical God at its foundation. Thus, God must exist!

Greg had “pulled out the rug” from under his opponent, demonstrating that only Christian theism could make sense of the debate itself. Dr. Stein was unable to answer this powerful argument, and his own arguments for atheism were systematically demolished by Dr. Bahnsen’s keen intellect. With appropriate gentleness and respect, Dr. Bahnsen had rationally destroyed the position of his opponent. Christianity had unequivocally triumphed over atheism. And the audience knew it. They chuckled at Dr. Bahnsen’s frequent use of humorous and memorable analogies, and at his quick and clear answers to Dr. Stein’s attacks.

When I first listened to this debate, I was truly amazed at Greg’s arguments and responses; they were both brilliant and thoroughly biblical. I said to myself, “This man thinks and argues like Christ.”

Indeed, the brilliant responses that Christ in His ministry gave to His critics are echoed in Dr. Bahnsen. 

Dr. Jason Lisle AIG/ICR

Does God Exist?

Dr. Greg Bahnsen debates Edward Tabash at UC (Davis)

Two short clips from Dr. Bahnsen's opening/closing statements. The full debate is available at Covenant Media Foundation
along with a wealth of other Greg Bahnsen  apologetic training materials on DVD, MP3, PDF, Books, Articles, Flash Drives

A Few Key Points From The Debate

The unbeliever thinks of himself as God. As if he can say to God, “If you meet my criteria, let me play God, then I’ll let you be God after I'm satisfied."

If the doctrine of hell is not true, then God is not true to his character. Because those who want to be with God must be like Him. If God lets people reject Him and still lets them into heaven, then what God is basically saying, is that his character meaningless, he is not true to his revealed word.

Philosophically speaking, how is saying that you don’t like the Christian conception of God, relevant at all? It would only be relevant if the assumption “if I don’t like something, then it doesn’t exist” is true. This would be intellectually childish. It is like a child who gets angry at his father, and pulls the covers over his head and declares “You don’t exist, because I don’t like you”.  Do really really assume that because we don’t like something about God, then He can’t be God? Of course atheists don’t like God and doesn’t think He is fair. Criminals never think that the police are fair, or that the judge was fair to them.

If the God of the bible does not exist, then we have lost all principles for moral complaint about what Hitler did. In a Godless universe what one animal does to another animal is ethically irreverent. Moral attributes do not comport with an atheistic understanding of the universe.

In order to use the problem of evil, you must be able to show that the existence of evil is meaningful. But an atheistic worldview can not account for ascribing meaning to evil. Why not think evil is good? Logically speaking, how do you take evil seriously, not as something just unhappy or unpleasant or contrary to your desires? A Moral Standard for all mankind can not be based on relative human reasoning or ever changing social preferences. 

The Atheist must secretly rely on the Christian worldview in order to make sense of his worldview. Anti-theism presupposes theism in order to even make it’s case. The problem of evil in a logical problem for the unbeliever not for the believer. The unbeliever cannot even make sense of it.

The inductive principle needs a rational foundation. And we use the inductive principle when we reason, when we engage in discourse, when we do anything to make our human experience intelligible. Everything the atheist says assumes the inductive principle, that there is a uniformity of nature, which is not the teleological argument. Anyone who even argues against or for the teleological argument assume the inductive principle. And everyone who argues for or against God assumes the inductive principle and the uniformity of nature. And atheism cannot provide a foundation for the inductive principle and the uniformity of nature because it is contrary and antithetical to the atheist worldview. As Hume and Russell pointed out, you can’t appeal to human experience to prove the uniformity to Nature. Why? because human experience already presupposes the uniformity of nature.

An atheistic universe is self contradictory and thus irrational. Atheist will presuppose human dignity and attend a funeral of a friend, but then turn around and argue that man has no dignity and is no different from any other product of evolution, like a snail, a dog, or a horse. The Atheist will maintain that man is nothing more than a complex biological chemical factor controlled by the laws of physics, and yet he kisses his wife and children when he goes home as if there is something called love. The atheist will argue that in sexual relations that anything goes, that there are no moral absolutes, but will condemn rapists and child molesters. Thus the atheist doesn’t have a workable worldview in which he can reason in the first place.

In fact, why should an atheist be considered reasonable? The atheist doesn’t have an ontological grounding for reason itself, because his worldview doesn’t allow for one. The atheist denies the very values it wants to affirm.

In loving memory of

September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995

Christian Apologist and Scholar-in-Residence at
The Southern California Center for Christian Studies

Who was "Always Ready" to defend the faith
and always ready to meet his Lord.

"One of the greatest proofs of the Christian worldview is without it, you cannot prove anything."