Presuppositional Apologetics: Where Do I start?

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Puritan Board Junior
I'm now energized to get serious about apologetics after reading a wonderful editorial this past weekend in our local newspaper by Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion". I liken it to purpose-driven atheism. I can post it if anyone cares to read it for themselves.

After a very brief online examination of the different Christian apologetic veiwpoints, I think the presuppositional approach makes the most sense, at face-value anyway. I really don't know much about it.

Where should I start to get a good basic understanding, and then to go a little deeper?
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Puritan Board Junior
As the most simple introduction, Van Til's "My Credo" is probably the best

After that Van Til's book "Defense of the Faith" is the most helpful by him, In my humble opinion.

For others who interpret and apply Van Til, I would suggest:
"Paul's Two-Age Construction and Apologetics" by William Dennison and

"Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis" by Greg Bahnsen.

Personally, I would recommend staying away from John Frame's works on Van Til. It is my opinion that Frame is not a trustworthy Van Tillian apologist:2cents:


Puritan Board Junior
Personally, I would recommend staying away from John Frame's works on Van Til. It is my opinion that Frame is not a trustworthy Van Tillian apologist

Funny, the only thing I've read so far (yesterday) was "Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics" by John Frame which I found on


Puritan Board Junior
Sorry, the atheist's name is Richard Dawkins (not Steven Hawkins!) and here is the article from Saturday's Mpls/St.Paul Star Tribune.....

Atheist firebrand

For Richard Dawkins, a leap of faith is a plunge into an abyss of nonsense.
The outspoken Oxford University professor and scientist also known as "Darwin's Rottweiler" argues that point adamantly and eloquently in his latest book, "The God Delusion."If this book works as I intend, religious readers who pick it up will be atheists when they put it down," Dawkins says in the introduction. All religion is superstition, he says, and faith breeds ignorance, oppression and strife. We respect it too much and question it too little; meanwhile, evolutionary science, which offers a brilliant and beautiful explanation of origins and existence, is bashed by "ignoramuses," he says.

Along with Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation," the book has struck a chord; both shot up the New York Times bestseller list.

In a phone interview last week, Dawkins, who is on a nationwide speaking tour, talked about "The God Delusion."

Q Describe the U.S. reaction to the book.

A It's been extremely gratifying. I've had large audiences and roaring applause, even in bastions of conservative Christianity -- Kansas or Lynchburg, Va., the home of Jerry Falwell. I sense a lot of pent-up feeling in those places. People who question faith have felt suppressed and repressed.

Q But is the book changing minds?

A I don't have appropriate evidence to answer that, but it's certainly encouraging people to come out and speak their minds. Polls generally put the number of [U.S.] atheists at about 10 percent of the population. That's more than the number of American Jews, who have a very effective lobby. If atheists organized, they'd have considerable clout.

Q Why do you think Americans are so religious?

A One hypothesis is that it's a paradoxical consequence of the separation of church and state. In Britain, where we have a state religion, religion is considered sort of boring. In America, religion is free enterprise. Rival churches sell it with all the zeal with which soap flakes are sold, competing for people and their lucrative tithes. Another theory is that Americans, as a nation of immigrants who left their extended families behind, sense something lacking and find a substitute of sorts for kin in the church. And then, there's this irreverent suggestion: Americans are just gullible -- look how they charged west, wrongly believing they'd find gold and get rich.

Q Have you personally ever been religious?

A No, but then I wasn't badly indoctrinated. I did go to a school where we went to chapel every day, but the Anglican church is a weakened strain of the virus. It's not the real McCoy.

Q Explain why you reject agnosticism -- the assertion that we can't know with certainty whether God exists or not.

A Of course you can't disprove God. But you also can't disprove other deities and beliefs. What if I tell you there's a flying spaghetti monster? You can't prove there's not. We are all technically atheists about fairies, unicorns, Poseidon at the bottom of the sea, but we don't bother to say so. How is the God of the Old or New Testament any different from those we dismiss so readily?

Q John Lennon's "Imagine" has become an atheist anthem. Imagine for us a world without religion. What does it look like?

A Perhaps it would look like modern-day Sweden. Or perhaps like the world most educated people live in, where religion doesn't even enter into their lives, and their lives are rich nevertheless. But this question asks us to imagine a counterfactual world.

Q On my way to work, I pass seven or eight churches, mosques or synagogues. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is home to thousands of works of art inspired by faith. Religion is so deeply a part of our architecture, art, daily life. Where are we without it?

A We can look at a lot of those things as historical or cultural relics. One reason art has historically been linked with religion is because works were commissioned by the church. Had that not been the case, perhaps Bach's oratorios would have been inspired by the beauty of the Milky Way; perhaps Michelangelo's gifts as displayed in the Sistine Chapel would have been laid out elsewhere in praise of scientific principles, which also can inspire great wonder.

Q Some critics have said that you unfairly lump all people of faith -- from Osama bin Laden to Nazi resistance hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- together as, at bottom, fools. Is that justified?
A Ah, this is where it gets difficult. Clearly, Bonhoeffer, along with [Thomas] Aquinas and Augustine and many other theologians, was no fool. However, I line up with Sam Harris, who suggests that respectable, nonviolent, really nice religious people pave the way for extremists by teaching that faith is a virtue rather than encouraging that we foster reason based on the evidence. There are likely to be violent, extremist people in any walk of life, but if you tell them as children that faith is positive and good, then you don't have to justify it. Many people believe that the stronger you hold to your faith in the face of the lack of evidence, the more of a virtue it is. They say, "You can't argue with my faith." Why can't I? Why is faith any different from other things we question and debate?

Q But is there not value in a society where people of different beliefs live side by side, tolerant of beliefs they may not intellectually buy?

A Clearly there is value in a peaceful, amicable society. But pluralism is not in itself a praiseworthy value. If you're telling me that it's a good thing we have diversity of belief that includes the Amish and Jehovah's Witnesses and people who don't get their kids medical care when they need it, you're wrong.

Q Here are quotes about faith from two thoughtful Twin Cities clergy members. What is your response to each?

The Rev. Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood: "I thirst for water, and water exists. I hunger for food, and food exists. I hunger and thirst for God, so I concluded that God must exist."

Dawkins: The fact that you hunger and thirst for something does not make it exist. A young man ravaged by lust might hunger for a woman he believes loves him back, but she just doesn't, and he can't make it so by longing for it. It's silly to assume that wanting something means it exists.

Roman Catholic priest and liturgist the Rev. Michael Joncas: "I am willing to embrace what science and knowledge offer us. Yet what has inspired me since early childhood is a great sense of holy mystery."

Dawkins: Scientists thrive on mystery, on investigating it. But we would not use the word "holy." To call life's mysteries holy and imply that they have something to do with God is unhelpful and misleading. Among the things Roman Catholics call holy mysteries are the holy trinity and transubstantiation. But those things are myths.

Q From early in its evolution, humankind has shown signs of being religious. Is it not reasonable to assume that humanity is inseparable from a sense of the divine?

A Maybe there is something innate in us that vaguely corresponds to some aspect of religion. There are lots of people who want to know where they came from, who feel a sense of awe when they look up into the stars at night. I myself do that. But I don't think we need to call this religion, unless we call it religion in the Einsteinian sense, that is, a sense of wonder unrelated to any belief in the supernatural.

Q After Hurricane Katrina, money and help poured in from people of faith. Frankly, those folks did most of the work. Is there not value in having places for people of faith and goodwill to congregate and act?

A I don't mean to be too cynical, but don't forget that churches and religious organizations are tax-exempt and operate free of the constraints put on nonprofits. Frankly, it would be a scandal if religious organizations didn't help out. That's one point. Another is that in a nation that is at least 90 percent religious, you'd expect at least 90 percent of the help provided in a situation like that to be religious.

Q What would you most like to tell people of faith?

A Be skeptical -- truly examine your faith. Ask yourself if there is evidence for your beliefs. Reflect on the fact that you are most likely of the faith you happen to have been brought up in, and that if you'd been born into a different faith, you'd be equally fervent about it.


Puritanboard Clerk
Bahnsen's *Always Ready* is the best start.
Frame's *Apologetics to the Glory of God* isnt' as bad as people make it out to be. I disagree with him but he did a good job summarizing the issues.

And invest in a few Bahnsen audio serieses. He was his best as a lecturer. And of course, you will need to get the "Great Debate" against Gordon Stein.


Puritan Board Freshman
The Battle Belongs To The Lord by K. Scott Oliphint

I would recommend this book first, because it lays down the biblical basis for apologetics (and particularly presuppositional apologetics, although the term is never used).

I'd then listen to the debates available online involving Bahnsen (With Stein and Tabash are the ones I've heard), and do some reading on the free material online.

Then start looking at books such as The Defense of the Faith by Van Til, Apologetics To The Glory of God, Doctrine of the Knowldge of God both by Frame, Van Til's Apologetic by Bahnsen (which I am still working through)

I should also point out that I found Foundations of Christian Scholarship quite useful as well as Schaefer's Death in the City.

Also, read the other sides material. Do not expect to be able to meaningfully interact with them if you do not understand them as well as you can.

At least, this is what has worked for me.



Puritanboard Clerk
This 5 part video lecture by Bahnsen might be the best introductory lecture.
Bahnsen Video Lecture

Also helpful is to do some study on the history of philosophy. That more than anything else helped me. Also by implication: study ethics. Show how autonomous ethical systems self-destruct.

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
For initial exposure to presuppositional thinking and apologetics, and an excellent introduction in terms of breadth, I recommend Richard Pratt's Every Thought Captive.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I would suggest a thoughtful reading of Anselm's Proslogium. It seems that a lot of people stop reading it after the third chapter, but the most interesting parts come after that. If you read it carefully, you cannot help but have it make a difference in how you read the 111th and 14th Psalms, for example. And that, in turn, makes quite a difference in how you read the Proverbs (where Ps. 111 ends is where Proverbs starts.) You don't need to read Anselm to get to the same end, of course. Augustine's Confessions do the same thing, as well as his City of God. All these books help you with a devotional approach to the unity of truth which the Word of God majestically displays like no other book.

I'm not convinced that the apologetic answer is so much in methodology as it is in personal devotion. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. It is not just facts and arguments that you present to other people, it is also the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. If the representation of truth at all depends more upon you than it does on truth, then you are presenting a poor substitute. You can only be faithful to it to the degree that you are personally devoted to faithfulness to the God of truth.

Anselm's and Augustine's books are of great value in giving you an example of this.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Paul, do you remember when I put together a PDF of all of those articles you linked to in your Philosophy of The Christian Religion. I sent it to Jeff Downs several months ago, but I could not find it on his site ( If anyone wants to host this PDF file I would be glad to upload it, just send me a U2U for details.
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