Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg L. Bahnsen

by Greg Bahnsen

Author: Bahnsen, Greg L.

Publisher: P & R Publishing Company

Date: July 1998

ISBN-10: 0875520987 | ISBN-13: 9780875520988

Binding: Hardcover

Pages: 764

Author Greg L. Bahnsen was the scholar-in-residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies and an ordained minister iin the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California, specializing in the field of epistemology (theory of Knowledge). He also received M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Dr. Bahnsen was the author of numerous books and published articles and was a popular conference speaker. He was also a renowned public debater as evidenced in his interchanges with Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jews, and atheists. A complete list of his over 1,700 audio tapes, videos, articles, and books is available from the Covenant Media Foundation. description: More than a simple Cook’s tour of an influential apologist, Greg Bahnsen presents Van Til’s theology as he actually wrote it, but with the added commentary necessary to bridge the gap between the perceived audience of the writer and the layman. Bahnsen doesn’t oversimplify, but gives true commentary and context to spotlight the material in a way that even long-time Van Til readers will find refreshing.

Van Til didn’t shy away from the difficult aspects of presuppositional apologetics (which uses Christianity as a starting point rather than nature or hard science), but embraced them, incorporating them into his presentation of the Christian worldview. Bahnsen molds much of the souce texts into a comprehensive treatise on Apologetics, and covers such varied ground as:

  • The place of Apologetics in Theology
  • The nature, necessity and aim of Apologetics
  • Apologetics in relation to Epistemology (the study of the limits and validity of knowledge)
  • Comparative apologetics
  • The complexities and failures of unbeliefAlthough Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) authored over 250 separate pieces of material, he never released an in-depth systematic overview. This volume distills his thought on presuppositionalism, giving space to fully illustrate this biblically-based type of apologetical argument.


Faculty Review: This the the late Dr. Bahnsen’s testament to today’s defenders of the truth. It is an encyclopedic synthesis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til, who was arguably the most original apologist of the twentieth century. In the grand tradition of the Sentences of the fathers, this study will be a standard for years to come. – William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary

Faculty Review: Our Confident expectation is that this volume will prove effective both as an introduction to [Van Til’s] thought and for promoting a deepening understanding of it. – Richard B. Gaffin and K. Scott Oliphint, professors at Westminster Theological Seminary

Staff Review:, Cornelius Van Til’s distinctive, Reformed approach to apologetics (“transcendental,” “presuppositional,” and “covenantal”) stands as a milestone in the history of Reformed theology. Greg Bahnsen’s volume captures the significance of Van Til’s contribution in a way that preserves the details of his approach. Bahnsen’s lucid style brings greater clarity to Van Til’s corpus and is a must read for students of Van Til’s theology and apologetics. Bahnsen provides helpful discussions of the issue of ultimate authority and human knowledge, the impossibility of the contrary, the transcendental argument for God’s existence, and an epistemologically self-conscious apologetic. He also offers insightful treatments of the importance of Reformed theology for apologetics, the presuppositional conflict of worldviews, the relation of presuppositions and the use of evidence, and an analysis of competing apologetical systems (evidentialism and natural theology). Bahnsen also opens an illuminating window on Van Til’s relationship to Old Princeton (especially Warfield) and Amsterdam (Kuyper) and shows where he agrees and disagrees with each. Another hallmark is the judicious selection of primary readings. – Jeff Waddington – Westminster Bookstore Staff

Monergism Review: There is only one work to buy on Van Til and this is it. Bahnsen has written the definitive commentary on the works of the great thinker. Van Til is very hard to understand because his thought is deep and abstract. Bahnsen provides readings and analysis so that Van Til becomes assessable to everyone. This book is a goldmine of information, tackling the problems of unbelief and exposing them to the light of a “presuppositional apologetic”. If your not sure what “presuppositional apologetics” means this book is a good place to start. If you are a “presuppositional apologist” then you will fully agree- this book is worth every cent! The task Bahnsen has completed would be absolutely daunting, but nothing has been dummied down to insult the intelligence of the reader. At the same time, non-technical readers can understand it. I couldn’t even imagine where one would begin with a synthesis of Van Til, but Bahnsen gives us clarity where there has been much confusion. It is strange that one should start with Bahnsen instead of Van Til if they really want to understand Van Til. But this is true because “Van Til’s Apologetic” is the clearest, most accurately systematized introduction to Van Til available. Indeed, Van Til could not have done better! You have not studied apologetics until you have studied the works of Van Til and this book is all you need to accomplish that task. – B. K. Campbell


Amazon Reviewer A. Blake White: “Reading this book has been nothing less than ‘epoch-making.’ Dr. Van Til’s writings are voluminous, spanning 3 feet on a book shelf when combined. Greg Bahnsen has done the church a great service by compiling, and systematically organizing some of Van Til’s key writings into about 3 inches of shelf space (764 pp). The book is almost an anthology with running commentary by Bahnsen. Bahnsen usually opens each section with an intro, which is followed by many sections of Van Til’s writings pertaining to the relevant topic, with lots of footnotes from Bahnsen analyzing, adding, and answering critics along the way. Van Til can be hard to read in places, as he is very well read, and expects his reader to be familiar with the history of Western philosophy. Bahnsen is very helpful here in the footnotes. The book has 9 chapters:

1. An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic
2. The Task of Apologetics
3. A Simple Summary and Illustration
4. The Epistemological Side of Apologetics
5. The Apologetical Side of Epistemology
6. The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief
7. The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument
8. Comparisons and Criticisms of Apologetical Methods
9. Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith

It is saddening to know that this book has not and probably will not gain much of a hearing outside Presbyterian circles. Van Til really is a brilliant gift to the church and was crucial in the ‘Reformation of Christian Apologetics.’ One could not ask for a higher view of Scripture. Van Til took the lordship of Christ seriously, especially concerning the realm of knowledge.

–The gospel of the self-authenticating God speaking through Christ in Scripture offers man salvation, not only for his life, but for his science and philosophy and theology as well. (571)
–Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold. It is wholly irrational to hold any other position than that of Christianity. Christianity alone does not slay reason on the altar of `chance.’ (730)
–Every Evangelical, as a sincere Christian is at heart a Calvinist. But witnessing is a matter of the head as well as the heart. If the world is to hear a consistent testimony for the Christian faith, it is the Calvinist who must give it. (582)
–So in presuppositional apologetics we seek to “remove the enemy’s foundation” by reducing his worldview to absurdity, thereby rendering the claims that constitute his case against the gospel unintelligible and demonstrating the necessity of the Christian worldview if we are to make sense of argumentation about reasoning about, and interpretation of, any element of human experience. (111)
–It is therefore mandatory that Reformed theologians urge their fellow Protestants everywhere to call upon modern man to interpret his life in terms of the book of God and therefore in terms of the God of the book. (713)”

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