Bahnsen on Presuppositionalism

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Junior
Christian apologetics is a defense of religious faith, thus pertaining to the question of one’s ultimate commitment to life. Apologetics entails intellectual reasoning in justification of one’s beliefs, thus touching on the epistemological question of the final standard of knowledge. These observations make clear that the defense of the faith is unavoidably a presuppositional matter. Both the unbeliever and the believer operate in terms of certain espoused presuppositions or worldviews, aiming to develop their thinking in a way that is consistent with their respective ultimate commitments. The Christian apologist needs to argue with the non-Christian in an epistemologically self-consistent manner, which cannot happen if his reasoning and argumentation assume things that are actually contrary to his intended conclusion.

Therefore, the authority of Christ and His word, rather than intellectual autonomy, must govern the starting point and method of his apologetics, as well as its conclusion. He challenges the philosophical adequacy of the unbeliever’s worldview, showing how it does not provide the preconditions for the intelligibility of knowledge and morality. His case for Christianity, then, argues from the impossibility of the contrary. From beginning to end, both in his own philosophical method and in what he aims to bring about in the unbeliever’s thinking, the Christian apologist reasons in such a way “that in all things Christ might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

Bahnsen, Greg L., Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis. pp. 6-7.


Puritan Board Freshman
"Therefore, the authority of Christ and His word, rather than intellectual autonomy, must govern the starting point and method of his apologetics, as well as its conclusion."

This may be understood by the apologist even as he uses philosophical arguments to disprove atheism.

The issue seems similar to whether an evangelist should tell his listeners that they cannot believe unless God gives them the ability to do so.


Puritan Board Senior
In teacher training I was interested in the extent that you could challenge a pupils worldview. There is (or was) guidance in the form of an "orange book" which basically prevented you from mocking a pupil or outright contradicting them. It did however specifically recommend that you showed the false premise of any position a pupil was proposing.

Decades later I can see it does fit in with the prepositional approach to apologetics. Before I was a christian I was an evolutionist and was very unhappy with the conclusions I arrived at. I think it is that discomfort that we need to press home on. That said most people are not logical and do not follow through to the "logical conclusion". Thinking as a friend keeps reminding me is not a reflex action

Reformation Monk

Puritan Board Freshman
One of my favorite books is Bahnsen's "Always Ready."

I've done a lot of personal evangelization including house/street evangelization. I've been a Christian for a long time and I really see the Evangelistic Method in light of Romans.

People rebel against God. This is the problem. It isn't a philosophical or intellectual problem in my opinion based on the truth of Scripture and on my own personal experiences. Evangelization in my opinion is to lovingly present the Truth with Scripture. This is how I Evangelize to everyone.

I start with the Bible. ---- "Did you know that the Bible says..... ?" ( while holding my bible )

This usually results in a comment much like this.... "well that's fine for you, but I don't believe in the bible" or "I'm a Christian but I don't take the Bible literally."
This in my opinion is where the real battle is at. This is the argument that I've spent the most time on with many people.

.... "why don't you believe in the bible?" -----

I then defend God and His Word and Truth.... from that point, I don't ever expect conversion. I expect the person or person's that I'm talking with to shake their head and walk away and or stop the discussion.

But the Battle isn't lost... because they have been presented with the Truth and they have been confronted with their open rebellion against their creator. This is a means of Grace whereby the Spirit can do His work if He is willing.

I've personally witnessed a number of people that I've evangelized to come to Christ in this manner over time.

p.s. and I do all this with much prayer.

p.s.s --- a good series of lectures on Van Tillian apologetic's --- Sermon Audio ---
Last edited:


Puritan Board Graduate
The point that Bahnsen is making is that we start with the bible and interpret the world from there. I once had an interesting apologetical moment to illustrate this point a couple of years ago. A friend, who is not a christian, came to me and said that he watched an atheist video on Jonah and said it made sense to him that this was obviously a myth. I could haved chosen to agree with him and his autonomy and try to prove the historical realiability of the scriptures and than there divine isnpiration. Or I could just challange his presupositions about the God and the bible while proclaiming the biblical message about God as the only reasonable point of view, which is Bahnsen's point. I did all that by asking a simple question, I said "so what your saying is that the God of the bible couldn't keep a man alive inside a fish/whale (or whatever it was) for 3 days, it seems to me that that would be an easy thing for him to do." He cursed and relented his argument. I didn't have to point out everything that Bahnsen says here but I assumed it in all my method of aproeching his argument. Bahnsen and Van Til did a lot of metapologetics, or the things we assume going into the debate.
Not open for further replies.