"Best" Presuppositionalists

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TomVols

Puritan Board Freshman
In looking at the literature of presuppositional apologetics, it seems clear we have some obvious advocates both from years gone by and in our present day. We have academics, and practicing apologists (I wish we had better terms).

I'm looking to get your thoughts on some of the most helpful in your opinion - from both of my alleged camps. Van Til, Frame, Oliphint, Bahnsen, Keller, Bruggencate, Lisle, etc. Maybe some that are under the radar. I especially am interested in those who are putting it into practice but don't want to leave behind those who presuppositional apologists appeal to as their mentors.

I assure you I have no axes to grind. There are many places where that happens. :(
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Poythress and Frame are the most rounded. I know purists don't like them, but they also don't fall into ruts, either.

James Anderson and Greg Welty are the most scholarly.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Poythress and Frame are the most rounded. I know purists don't like them, but they also don't fall into ruts, either.

James Anderson and Greg Welty are the most scholarly.
It appears that Frame falls into the same error(s) as Oliphint regarding God's immutability. I'll have to find the quote. I was alerted to this through my buddies at Reformed Forum, since they are in the thick of all that junk with Oliphint.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
It appears that Frame falls into the same error(s) as Oliphint regarding God's immutability. I'll have to find the quote. I was alerted to this through my buddies at Reformed Forum, since they are in the thick of all that junk with Oliphint.
I'm not endorsing Frame. I'm simply saying he has kept up with the literature in epistemology and ontology. He doesn't simply chant slogans.
 

TomVols

Puritan Board Freshman
Poythress and Frame are the most rounded. I know purists don't like them, but they also don't fall into ruts, either.

James Anderson and Greg Welty are the most scholarly.
The list that the "purists" don't like is a mile long. All four you mentioned would get thrown overboard (Not Transcendental enough). Keller and Mohler would, too (Not true presuppers).

Some basically only like Bruggencate, Durbin, Lisle, and White with an occasional Doug Wilson fan. I don't think Bruggencate is the devil. I'm just willing to learn from any and all.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
I don't think Bruggencate is the devil.
I am a staunch presuppositionalist, but I honestly find Sye Ten to be a little obnoxious to watch in a debate. It's actually quite cringey. He's kind of a hot head and if often condescending. He appears to try to get a rise out of people rather than actually win them. Of course, destruction is sometimes necessary, but apologetics should also try to be persuasive in trajectory.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Honestly, for me (definitely a presup guy), I like Van Til and Anderson the most. Schaeffer is really good on practical stuff (though so is Anderson). Bahnsen did understand VT very well, and was great at debating. Frame has some really good stuff, too, on apologetics (definitely his best books), even if some of his other work has problems in it. Poythress is far less problematic than Frame. On Islam, I really like Bruce McDowell's work, though Oliphint has a really good discussion in his Covenantal Apologetics. No theologian is perfect, but that is no reason to reject the good stuff they put out. So Tom's comment is a bit overstated on that point. There are plenty of presuppositional guys willing to take what is good and not turn up our noses at it just because that theologian has problems in other areas.

Sinclair Ferguson, when he was being interviewed for the ST position at WTS, was asked, "Have you read the works of Van Til?" Ferguson replied, "Yes, I've read Calvin."
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Bahnsen did understand VT very well, and was great at debating.
Bahnsen appears to be weak on the 'Vosian' aspect of Van Til's apologetics and the use of the Trinity to solve the one and many problem. That said I found his books "Van Til's apologetic" and "Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended" tremendously helpful. Both books go nicely together.

Oliphint has a really good discussion in his Covenantal Apologetics
Yes. One of the most helpful things I got from this book is that Reformed apologetics is covenantal.
 

RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore
Bahnsen appears to be weak on the 'Vosian' aspect of Van Til's apologetics and the use of the Trinity to solve the one and many problem. That said I found his books "Van Til's apologetic" and "Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended" tremendously helpful. Both books go nicely together.


Yes. One of the most helpful things I got from this book is that Reformed apologetics is covenantal.
God is the ultimate unity and plurality, but how that theological truth becomes useful in the outworking of a theistic transcendental argument has eluded not just Bahnsen. Has any Christian apologist advanced such a project?

That a common creator stands behind our minds and the external world (providing a fruitful correlation for the intelligibility of causality) seems intuitively relevant to God’s goodness, his omnipotence and, of course, to His works of creation and providence. However, I fail to see how God being Tripersonal enters into the mix, other than the God we are seeking to establish is Triune. But for that matter, God is also holy and that attribute doesn’t seem immediately relevant to TAG.

I’m not saying there’s not something there. I just haven’t seen it fleshed out in any substantive way. Elias Ayala encouraged me yesterday to give a listen to Brant Bosserman on the matter.
 
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Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
I’m not saying there’s not something there. I just haven’t seen it fleshed out in any substantive way. Elias Ayala encouraged me yesterday to give a listen to Brant Bosserman on the matter.
His book is worth a read "The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til". He brings out important Van Til themes such as the Trinity and One and Many problem in metaphysics, and a few Vosian themes etc. Its a while since I read it, you have to put your thinking caps on, but I found it helpful and stimulating. He brings together a number of Van Tilian insights.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm basically a novice when it comes to reading material from presuppositialists but my favorite famous one is probably Douglas Wilson. He was the first presuppositionalist I ever listened to, in the documentary with Christopher Hitchens. My favorite presuppositionalist is probably my pastor who now joined the USAF to be a chaplain, and who introduced me to the method. Not a well known name however.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Here is my take, after running in these circles for years. I am no longer presup, but I hope I can speak objectively:

Van Til: are you prepared to parse German idealism? I actually don't mind his idealism. I think there is more to it than people give him credit for. I also think he is a far more interesting theologian and churchman than actual philosopher.

Bahnsen: You need to have his big reader on Van til. He does a good job walking you through the tall grass. I think he better than anyone else shows why atomism falls because of no unifying principle and why realism falls because all is absorbed into the One. My only quibble is that no one on the streets holds to those positions in such a pure manner.

Frame: I know, I know. Still, his book on Van Til covers aspects of Van Til's thought that Bahnsen's doesn't. It is required reading if you want to know Van Til.

Poythress: great job in applying presup to other disciplines.

Oliphint: I liked his early stuff. He got in trouble on the doctrine of God.

Anderson: Probably he and Welty are the hardest hitters today.

Sye: "oh yeah, how do you know that?" "oh yeah, how do you know that?" "oh yeah, how do you know that?"

Wilson: Not a real presuppositionalist (or theologian). He admitted in one of his books that he didn't really know Van Til. He's just a good speaker and that's why he did so well against unbelievers.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Here is my take, after running in these circles for years. I am no longer presup, but I hope I can speak objectively:

Van Til: are you prepared to parse German idealism? I actually don't mind his idealism. I think there is more to it than people give him credit for. I also think he is a far more interesting theologian and churchman than actual philosopher.

Bahnsen: You need to have his big reader on Van til. He does a good job walking you through the tall grass. I think he better than anyone else shows why atomism falls because of no unifying principle and why realism falls because all is absorbed into the One. My only quibble is that no one on the streets holds to those positions in such a pure manner.

Frame: I know, I know. Still, his book on Van Til covers aspects of Van Til's thought that Bahnsen's doesn't. It is required reading if you want to know Van Til.

Poythress: great job in applying presup to other disciplines.

Oliphint: I liked his early stuff. He got in trouble on the doctrine of God.

Anderson: Probably he and Welty are the hardest hitters today.

Sye: "oh yeah, how do you know that?" "oh yeah, how do you know that?" "oh yeah, how do you know that?"

Wilson: Not a real presuppositionalist (or theologian). He admitted in one of his books that he didn't really know Van Til. He's just a good speaker and that's why he did so well against unbelievers.
What's your take on Dr. Lisle?
 

TomVols

Puritan Board Freshman
What's your take on Dr. Lisle?
He's touted as today's Bahnsen. I find him engaging. Almost all his books invariably have chapters on logical fallacies. I think he is trying to bridge the gap between books for the academic/theory (Bahnsen, Van Til) and books for popular usage (Schaeffer, Keller). I'm going to read more of Lisle and have a better opinion.
 

TomVols

Puritan Board Freshman
So Tom's comment is a bit overstated on that point. There are plenty of presuppositional guys willing to take what is good and not turn up our noses at it just because that theologian has problems in other areas.
I'm not saying all. But to deny or dismiss that there is a loud and large segment of presuppers attempting to "purify" the movement by eliminating a significant number of names we have bandied about is denying reality. That said, I highly appreciate your opinions and contributions and offer this observation charitably and with no other motive other to inform and discuss.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
In looking at the literature of presuppositional apologetics, it seems clear we have some obvious advocates both from years gone by and in our present day. We have academics, and practicing apologists (I wish we had better terms).

I'm looking to get your thoughts on some of the most helpful in your opinion - from both of my alleged camps. Van Til, Frame, Oliphint, Bahnsen, Keller, Bruggencate, Lisle, etc. Maybe some that are under the radar. I especially am interested in those who are putting it into practice but don't want to leave behind those who presuppositional apologists appeal to as their mentors.

I assure you I have no axes to grind. There are many places where that happens. :(
I think putting "best" in quotes was fully appropriate. You almost answered your question. My question is best for what? An academic paper? How about street evangelism? Cross disciplinary applications? Educated generalist? Public intellectual? Classroom educator at the college level? Classroom educator at the high school level?

I've read(or heard) some from all of those men of above. They have positional differences of opinion but most importantly different gifts. Since we are living in the real world with real challenges it's foolish to evaluate men solely on stated positions as if they're disembodied brains.

I'll start with Sye Ten Bruggencate because he has no academic credentials. He also gets a bad rap that I don't think is deserved. I've even seen him referred to as a "hack" but those that I otherwise respect. There is utterly no justification for that. Sye displays no pretense nor claims to be a genius. Sye is a fan of Bahnsen and Lisle and recommends them. As Sye says, he's a factory worker by trade, a boilermaker and makes no attempts to hide it. He's not afraid to publicly speak about the things of God. I find him to be a excellent compliment to the academic side of apologetics. He actually talks to unbelievers realizing that he may goof up on camera. He has a devotional way, if you will, of talking about apologetics. I'm looking forward to reading his upcoming book.

Lisle is blessed with some charm along with serious IQ points. He talks to people and breaks difficult concepts down well though I think he speaks fast. Sometimes I think he tries to cover too much ground in a talk. If YEC is not your thing, then you probably won't care for him. He's another devotee of Bahnsen.

Keller is a modern day Schaeffer in many respects most importantly due to his range. Keller can talk to folks in all walks of life. Not just upper crusty New Yorkers. It comes out in his sermons and written works.

Van Til is an interesting case. He's the one I've read the least in. I've read that he semi-regularly would grade papers in a local bar and over the years struck up interesting conversations. He took regular walks and was eager to speak about God to those he encountered. It might be worth losing some of his more obscure tombs if we could have some of these conversations.

I'm sure any of these men are "best" for various things.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
I made this reflection on another post earlier in the year:
A true Van Tilian is:
Hope this helps.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Would there happen to be any helpful discussions about these things on Reformed Forum? ;)
I admit the thinking is not original to me :) What I did get from Reformed Forum was a full orbed appreciation of the 'bigness' of a Van Tilian apologetic - presuppositional, covenantal, Trinitarian, Vosian.

I am interested to see if other Puritan Board members see it this way.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I admit the thinking is not original to me :) What I did get from Reformed Forum was a full orbed appreciation of the 'bigness' of a Van Tilian apologetic - presuppositional, covenantal, Trinitarian, Vosian.

I am interested to see if other Puritan Board members see it this way.
Mostly yes. They have some good stuff on Vos. I don't always go with their presuppositionalism, but they do give good scholarship.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
I think putting "best" in quotes was fully appropriate. You almost answered your question. My question is best for what? An academic paper? How about street evangelism? Cross disciplinary applications? Educated generalist? Public intellectual? Classroom educator at the college level? Classroom educator at the high school level?

I've read(or heard) some from all of those men of above. They have positional differences of opinion but most importantly different gifts. Since we are living in the real world with real challenges it's foolish to evaluate men solely on stated positions as if they're disembodied brains.

I'll start with Sye Ten Bruggencate because he has no academic credentials. He also gets a bad rap that I don't think is deserved. I've even seen him referred to as a "hack" but those that I otherwise respect. There is utterly no justification for that. Sye displays no pretense nor claims to be a genius. Sye is a fan of Bahnsen and Lisle and recommends them. As Sye says, he's a factory worker by trade, a boilermaker and makes no attempts to hide it. He's not afraid to publicly speak about the things of God. I find him to be a excellent compliment to the academic side of apologetics. He actually talks to unbelievers realizing that he may goof up on camera. He has a devotional way, if you will, of talking about apologetics. I'm looking forward to reading his upcoming book.

Lisle is blessed with some charm along with serious IQ points. He talks to people and breaks difficult concepts down well though I think he speaks fast. Sometimes I think he tries to cover too much ground in a talk. If YEC is not your thing, then you probably won't care for him. He's another devotee of Bahnsen.

Keller is a modern day Schaeffer in many respects most importantly due to his range. Keller can talk to folks in all walks of life. Not just upper crusty New Yorkers. It comes out in his sermons and written works.

Van Til is an interesting case. He's the one I've read the least in. I've read that he semi-regularly would grade papers in a local bar and over the years struck up interesting conversations. He took regular walks and was eager to speak about God to those he encountered. It might be worth losing some of his more obscure tombs if we could have some of these conversations.

I'm sure any of these men are "best" for various things.
I like both Sye and Dr. Lisle as well. I can see how some would think Sye is off putting, but he is just asking an honest question to those who makes claims without an authority to base it on. The question is legit. Also, as the Bible says, in response to the gospel message, people either go towards God or away, there is no neutrality. So, hostility will occur in some cases unfortunately.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I like both Sye and Dr. Lisle as well. I can see how some would think Sye is off putting, but he is just asking an honest question to those who makes claims without an authority to base it on. The question is legit. Also, as the Bible says, in response to the gospel message, people either go towards God or away, there is no neutrality. So, hostility will occur in some cases unfortunately.
The question may be legit, but reducing apologetics to that one liner isn't really the way to go. Stick with the scholars who have worked through the epistemological and ontological issues.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't disagree with what you say, but as someone else mentioned, not all of us are as intelligent as everyone else. Sometimes bluntness and being straight forward is what we have been given to work with. Now of course, I would also agree that if you want to be an apologist you should be willing to put in the work that is required. So....I probably just refuted my own argument. :)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't disagree with what you say, but as someone else mentioned, not all of us are as intelligent as everyone else. Sometimes bluntness and being straight forward is what we have been given to work with. Now of course, I would also agree that if you want to be an apologist you should be willing to put in the work that is required. So....I probably just refuted my own argument. :)
Strictly speaking in epistemology, asking someone "Oh yeah, how do you know that" is simply iterative skepticism, and it is subject to the same defeaters that apply to skepticism.

I remain unimpressed. It's true not everyone can be super smart, but if you cut corners in the early stages--and that is exactly what that is--it will come back to bite you.
 
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