Bahnsen’s Indictment of Traditional Apologetics

“These are seven ways that I think are philosophically profound and critical ways in which traditional apologetics differs from what Dr. Van Til has taught us.

First of all, the traditional approach to apologetics assumes that sinners can be, and ought to be, intellectually autonomous and religiously neutral in approaching, examining and reasoning about the truth claims of Christianity.

Secondly, the traditional method assumes that presuppositions—what we call “presuppositions”—are merely hypotheses to be tested by factual observation rather than a person’s most fundamental assumptions functioning as preconditions of intelligibility in terms of which hypotheses are tested.

Thirdly, the traditional approach assumes that there are group-observational common facts outside of any interpretive theory by which hypotheses can be tested.

Fourth, the traditional approach proceeds as though the unbeliever, in terms of his own professed philosophical perspective, has intelligible concepts or standards by which he may judge, test or verify the Christian hypothesis.

Fifth, the traditional approach appeals to such concepts or standards that I’ve just mentioned. Presumed to be commonly understood or interpreted, and is thus noncontroversial as yet, as a basis for a line of argument which leads the unbeliever, if he would simply reason cogently, out of his unbelieving perspective, into the antithetical conclusions of Christianity.

Sixth, the traditional approach portrays and defends aspects or parts of the Christian worldview in a way which is not distinctively Christian in conception, as though they are truths which may be properly understood in isolation from the overall worldview, and is thus theoretically compatible with some other presumably similar worldviews.

And then finally, seventh, that the traditional approach proposes only to show that the truth of Christianity is highly probable, rather than infallible or certain.”

(Bahnsen, Answering Frame’s Critique of Van Til)


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