Greg Bahnsen

Naturalism and Free Thought by Greg Bahnsen

In naturalistic atheism, all that exists in the universe is “matter in motion”- even in the area of human “thought.”As a result, all free thought is lost in this system, because the thoughts produced by an individual are simply the result of an electro-chemical response due to internal and external stimuli (remember, everything is physical “matter in motion”). Hence, on the foundation of the naturalist worldview, the supporter of this position could never know if naturalism is true, and further, they are forced to say naturalism is true simply due to the electro-chemical response taking place in their brains and not due to evidences or freedom of thought (yet, they debate and try to convince people that their system is true, as if the person had the freedom to make up their own minds). The short video below by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen explains this nicely.

The second video posted below is the entire Bahnsen vs. Stein debate. If you have never heard this debate, you must. Dr. Bahnsen utterly destroyed the atheistic worldview in this debate and it has become a classic in many Christian circles. It is a wonderful example of the irrationality of the atheistic position and serves as an equally wonderful example to show that without the Christian God, “you could not prove anything at all.”

Essay Questions – The Historical Jesus

Click here for a PDF version of this paper:  The Historical Jesus – Essay Questions

 

Krause, Jeffrey S.

Philosophy 240-B01

Liberty University School of Religion

13 September 2009

 

Essay Questions – The Historical Jesus

 

1. You are speaking with a new friend in the neighborhood. The conversation takes a turn towards religion, and you begin to share your faith and background with your friend. This friend shows a smirk across his face, and then states that he doubts that Jesus ever lived. How would you respond to him?

     Very few skeptics in the academic community in this modern era attempt to refute the existence of Jesus Christ. However, as typical, the modern attitude of academia does not always transfer quickly to general public. Thus, it is quite plausible that an unlearned skeptic would raise the question of the actual existence of Jesus of Nazareth. In answering the skeptic on this issue, it must be stated that the Bible provides for the reader firsthand, eyewitness testimony of the life, ministry and glorification of Jesus. When one looks to the reliable and cohesive testimony of the Gospels alone, there is ample evidence to show the historicity of the Christ. Also, this is not simply second hand knowledge, but rather, knowledge that was recorded and provided in the context where any truth claims about the Lord could have been disputed or disproven. The New Testament narratives were recorded within a generation of Jesus’ ministry and therefore could have been publically disputed. However, the opposite proves to be the case and there is ample evidence from Biblical and extra-biblical sources to document the Christian claim. Thus, the apologist has the testimony of those who walked with and witnessed the Lord both pre and post ministry.

     Next, and as mentioned previously, there are the extra-biblical sources that confirm the actual existence of Christ. Tacitus (55-120 A.D.), Suetonius (117-138 A.D.), Josephus (37-97 A.D.), Pliny the Younger and Lucian,[1] all mention the living Jesus in their writings. Thus, there is ample extra-biblical evidence that attests to the historicity of Jesus. However, certain scholars protest some of the extra-biblical evidence such as the skeptic Michael Martin where he proclaims; “we are justified in disbelieving that Jesus existed.”[2]  In addressing such points, Dr. Gary Habermas counters statement such as this with an array of historical evidence supporting the existence and ministry of Christ which include;

  •          The testimony of Paul and his knowledge of the disciples, Peter, James and John.
  •          The testimony of the “hundreds who had witnessed the risen Jesus and were still alive in Paul’s day.”
  •          The recording of the New Testament within the generation of the ministry of Christ.
  •          Extra-biblical references to the historic life of Christ.[3]

     The next evidence comes from the transformation of the weak and cowardly disciples into a group of strong and bold Apostles that changed the face of the world; with each dying a martyr’s death except for the apostle John (according to Church tradition). What motivated this group of believers to unite and promote the historic Jesus at such a cost? It is both illogical and against human nature to assert that these disciple forsook their lives and died a martyr’s death for such a lie. The point of Jesus being the “Son of God” is not in protest here. Rather, it is the historicity of Jesus in question. Thus, the apologist need only provide the evidence that motivated these individuals into action. Thus, with the Biblical, extra-biblical and testimony of the actions of the disciples, it is beyond doubt that the man called Jesus existed.  

2. You are speaking with a friend who is a believer, but struggles periodically with her faith. Lately, she was confronted by a relative who mentioned that apart from the Bible itself, we really don’t have any information regarding Jesus. To secure all of our faith concerning Jesus from one source seems short sighted and prone to circular reasoning. Are there any other sources that might support the historicity of the Jesus of the Bible? How would you answer your friend?

     The argument of the Bible being the sole source of information about the Lord Jesus Christ is not only fallacious; it also shows a lack of sound study on the subject and qualifies as “sound bite criticism.” Habermas lists Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, The Treaties on Resurrection, The Acts of Pontius Pilot and Phlegon[4] as documented, extra-biblical sources that refer to the historicity of the life of Christ.

     Not only does this information confirm the life of Christ, it also confirms the foundational teachings Christianity. Tacitus writes of “Christus” who “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilot…”[5] Thus, extra-biblical support of seen for the historic Christian claim of the crucifixion. Next, Suetonius speaks of the civil unrest that took place in Rome which resulted in the exile of the Jews from the Roman capital by Claudius; “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.”[6] Thus, the historical life of Christ is established apart from the Bible. This quote also helps to establish how the early church in Rome was in its infancy and was beginning to take form. To establish both the miracles and resurrection of Jesus, Flavius Josephus records in his work “Antiquites” the following;

“Now there was at this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats…He was (the) Christ…he appeared to them alive again on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”[7]

     Lastly, the divinity of Jesus is clearly seen in the words of Pliny the Younger as to the attitude and position of worship that Christ held within the early church, as well as the established Christian attitude as taught by the Lord when he proclaims;

“They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and they bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft of adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake in food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”[8]

     Thus, there is ample extra-biblical evidence that one can provide to document the life of Christ. However, this evidence does not only lend credence to the life of Jesus; but also to the ministry, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, message and motivation of the Lord Jesus and the early church itself. Therefore, the claim of the Bible being the sole source of information is proved fallacious. Also, it is not at all “begging the question” to assert that the Bible, as the inerrant word of God gives the believer all of the information needed to confirm the Christian truth claim. The Christian presupposes the Bible as the word of God and therefore asserts the accurate and evidenced information thereafter. Rather, it is the one claiming that the Bible is not the word of God who engages in “petitio principia” or “circular reasoning,” because they are assuming what they are trying to prove. Also, how does the unbeliever account for the laws of logic that they are citing? It is only in the Christian worldview that one can justify a universal, abstract invariant such as the laws of logic. Thus, the very posing of the question confirms the Christian worldview itself and is self defeating. Thus, in two different ways the skeptic is answered. First, the claim of single source support is refuted by the overwhelming extra-biblical evidence to the contrary and second, the very posing of the question and engaging in logical thought confirms the Christian truth claim.

3. You pick up a magazine article referring to the Jesus Seminar as representing the pinnacle of New Testament scholarship. This magazine article, when referencing the opinions of biblical scholarship, repeatedly references only the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar. You decide to write a letter to the editor of the magazine. What will you say?

     The Jesus Seminar among other Academic movements has recently challenged the fundamental teachings of Orthodox Christian thought. Much like the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP), the Jesus Seminar challenges the scholarship of orthodox Christian though in a way to undermine the validity of the historic Christian truth claims. However, unlike the NPP, the Jesus Seminar challenges the validity of the New Testament manuscripts themselves; claiming that up to “Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels were not actually spoken by him…”[9] Another claim of the Jesus Seminar falls in the realm of the “supernatural” where the majority of those of the JS reject or severely limit supernatural events as told within the Gospels.[10] These will be the two main areas that this essay will focus on in an attempt to, (1) show how the transmission of the New Testament manuscripts were able to avoid interpolation and (2) show that the Jesus Seminar’s rejection of the supernatural is both “begging the question” and not cogent within the realm of human experience.

     First, the Jesus Seminar claims corruption of the New Testament documents in the realm of interpolation and or editing. However, a brief explanation of the process of the penning of the original manuscripts up to the current manuscripts rejects this idea in toto. From their original penning by the New Testament authors, the N.T. MSS have or were held in possession by the universal church intact (in the first century era). As received by the churches, the original autograph was copied during the late first century and early second century and distributed throughout the known world. This rapid transmission resulted in four main lines of transmissions or “text types” known as; “the Alexandrian…the Western…the Byzantine…the Caesarean text type…”[11] Although the later, Byzantine MSS do contain a fuller or “conflated” text-type; this is not the result of “editing” but rather: “an expansion of piety.”[12] Meaning, the manuscripts were not changed in their meaning but rather; added to in regards to the deity of Jesus Christ. An example of conflation would be a rendering of “Jesus” in the earlier Alexandrian texts, with the rendering being “the Lord Jesus Christ” in the later Byzantine MSS. However, both texts are correct; although the latter was conflated or added to for greater clarity or meaning. This is far different then interpolation where the meaning is changed altogether. Also, all of the 5700 New Testament MSS are consistent with one another in regards to message and doctrine; although it is recognized that within these 5700 copies, there a great number of textual variations. However, variation is not the issue in this debate and is irrelevant to the discussion. Thus, it is contingent upon those of the Jesus Seminar to (1) show interpolation via the MSS evidence or (2), somehow show an original corruption from the original authors themselves. The former of these points cannot be proven due to the overwhelming MSS support that the church possesses. The latter of these two propositions is nothing more then an “argument from silence” because the Jesus Seminar proponents have no concrete proof of such a claim.

     The next defense of the faith will be in the area of the “supernatural” or the denial of the supernatural by some of the more well known scholars of the JS. The author of this essay asserts that those of the JS that raise this objection are in actuality “begging the question” by assuming what they are trying to prove. This question begging is seen greatly in the comments of Jarl Fossum when he proclaims; “Or it can be asserted that Jesus really did raise the girl from the dead – which would only reflect fundamentalist naiveté.”[13] The question must be asked when pondering an attack on the faith such as this; “what is Fossum assuming?” Fossum is assuming the “uniformity of nature” or rather, “induction.” However, how in a worldview outside of the Christian worldview can this be assumed? The Christian worldview is the only worldview that can account for the uniformity of nature and this is known via the special revelation of the Bible itself. So, if Fossum wishes to deny the Scriptures that can account for the uniformity of nature, he undercuts his thesis of uniformity in general; thus, he has no basis for such a claim. However, if he wises to deny the Scriptures in toto, then he still denies the uniformity of nature and has no basis for his assumptions.

     Thus, the question must be asked, on what basis in the above two scenarios does Fossum account for Induction?  Meaning, without the Christian, personal God that holds all things together (c.f. Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3), that is not “ultra-transcendent”[14] and can be understood as to the revelation He has provided; no other reason can be given for the uniformity of nature. Thus, Fossum must “assume” this uniformity with no basis for that assumption. In doing so, he must either rely on past experience or probability – neither of which can explain the uniformity in question. On what basis does Fossum even assume the uniformity of nature with his rejection of the Christian God and or the Scripture that describes Him? The answer will not be forthcoming from Fossum because there is no answer to be provided that corresponds with the “pre-conditions of human intelligibility.” Thus, Fossum engages in “circular reasoning” on two counts; (1) he assumes the uniformity of nature with no basis for that assumption and (2), he assumes that there is not a realm of the supernatural because he has no experience of the supernatural.  

     In summary, the Jesus Seminar cannot produce evidence to fortify their presuppositions and claims. The New Testament MSS could not have been altered after their circulation due to the rapid dispersion around the world and no evidence can be shown that the original authors falsified their writings. Next, their rejection of the supernatural is fallacious due to their inability to account for the uniformity of nature in which they understand that only uniformed events can occur. Thus, they “beg the question” by assuming what they are trying to prove. However, the Christian can claim the “uniformity of nature” due to the personal God that holds the universe together. Also, the Christian can equally claim supernatural miracles due to the same God whom by His will, alters the very universe and uniformity that He created and upholds. Thus, the Jesus Seminar is answered in two key areas and the word of God remains true.

4. You are in conversations with an old high school friend about your conversion to Christianity. In the ebb and flow of conversation, your friend claims that the New Testament is not really reliable because the writers were obviously had a theological bias in their recording and reporting of history. How would you respond to your friend?

     There are three immediate things that would be helpful upon this criticism of the Christian faith. First, it would be helpful to question the individual as to his or her worldview in an effort to, (1) understand the position from which they are arguing and (2) gather information for an apologetic defense of the faith. Next, it would be helpful to evaluate what types of presuppositions go into such a statement. First, this person is presupposing that the text of the Bible or that the authors themselves are not reliable. Second, this person could be presupposing that the text has been changed and or altered throughout the years. Third, this individual would also be rejecting the claim of “dual authorship” and thus, rejecting Christian epistemology in toto. Fourth, this person is seemingly assuming that there is a possibility of neutrality in the interpretation of evidence.

     Second, it would be helpful to explain that the Biblical authors did indeed have a Christian Theistic bias within their authorship, for if they did not, the Bible would not be the word of God. Next, it would be of most importance that the apologist exposes the lack of understanding in regards to the interpretation of evidences that the opponent adheres to. There simply is no way for a person to have a neutral or non-bias view in regards to life experience or evidence. It is the persons “worldview” as composed by their “presuppositions’ that decipher the evidence as presented. This evidence is then assimilated into the person’s worldview in correspondence to the individual’s ultimate faith commitment; whether it is reason, logic, emotion or Christian Theism. Consider the words of Greg Bahnsen on this issue;

“…the Christian and the unbeliever do not and cannot approach their differences with argumentative and or philosophical neutrality. Even though the Christian and non-Christian have the facts of the objective world in common, they have radically divergent interpretations of them. For the Christian, all facts are pre-interpreted by God, created by God and revelatory by God; they must be handled in such a way that glory is brought to God. But the non-Christian views these facts as meaningfully interpreted only by his own mind, as un created and free form God’s control, as ambiguous and contingent; he uses them to bring glory to man. Hence, the Christian and non-Christian have different interpretative schemes.”[15]

     Noting the words of Bahnsen, it is obvious to see that there is no “neutrality” when it comes to matters of evidence (or any subject to be exact). Both the believer and the unbeliever use their presuppositions to interpret the evidence; hence, both are bias. Thus, the friend’s statement is found to be fallacious due to the following problem with the individual’s argument; “the unbeliever making the claim has a non-theological bias towards the evidence and hence, he or she is not reliable.” Thus, if this is the standard of reasoning that the anti-theist or person posing the question wishes to take, then they are equally in violation of the same charge, minus the recording of historical data. Thus, the burden of proof is now shifted to the unbeliever to disprove the claim of the Biblical writers; a task that cannot be done.

     Having noted the impossibility of neutrality, the apologist can now show the true meaning of the evidence. First, the issue is not whether the Biblical authors had a theological bias in their penning of Scripture. Rather, the question is was that bias reliable? Meaning, the question is not the attitude or presuppositions of the messenger but rather, the reliability and validity of the message itself. If the Bible is indeed the word of God, then the authors had justification for their bias. So, the argument that seemed to draw into question the reliability of the Biblical authors, now justifies the authors on the validity of the Biblical message and Christian truth claim. The Apologist has now quieted the accuser and has shown that the individual has engaged in the very same act that they have condemned.

      Lastly, the apologist at this point can now introduce evidence for the reliability of the Biblical authors/message such as: early Christological Creeds, eyewitness testimony apart from the Biblical authors (such as extra-biblical evidence), the author’s testimony itself and historical data. Dr. Gary Habermas provides an extensive list of historical facts in regards to the historicity and reliability of the Biblical authors and there message with these points:

  1.       “Jesus died by crucifixion”
  2.       Jesus was buried.
  3.       Jesus’ death caused “the disciples to despair and lose hope”
  4.       The Tomb was discovered to be empty only a few days after the claim of the resurrection (a debatable point).
  5.       Experiences of the risen Jesus by the disciples.
  6.       The disciple’s were transformed from doubters into “bold proclaimers” of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  7.       “The message was the center of preaching in the early church”
  8.       The message was “especially proclaimed in Jerusalem” which surrounded the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  9.       The Birth of the church.
  10.       The shift to Sunday worship.
  11.       The conversion of James.
  12.       The conversion and eyewitness testimony of Saul of Tarsus.[16] 

     In summary, the Christian apologist has ample evidence to refute the claim of the unreliability of the Biblical authors from many different sources. It has been shown that a theological bias or presupposition does not in any way detract from the message being presented because; (1) all people have such biases towards their ultimate faith commitment and (2), there is no such thing as neutrality. The Christian message and authors must be evaluated on the message that they present, not the bias that they possess (this type of argumentation is also Ad Hominem because the opponent is arguing against the person and not the message presented). Next, it has been demonstrated that the very question that was posed by the skeptic can be reversed due to their presuppositional bias; thus reversing the burden of proof. Lastly, it has been shown that the bias that the Biblical authors possessed was indeed validated on a Biblical, extra-Biblical and historical basis. Thus, the charge of charge of bias is confirmed to be true and the basis for that bias is justified.

5. You meet a person on the ski lift at a local ski area, and in making small talk, you mention that you are taking college classes in the Bible. This new acquaintance is not trying to be antagonistic, but nevertheless, brings up something that he had heard regarding the “corruption” of the Bible. Upon further inquiry, you discover that this man has taken for granted the argument that the New Testament was corrupted over the centuries through the transmission process, and is thus unreliable. How might you answer him?

     Taking the words of 1 Peter 3:15 to heart, the Christian is to have answers to the skeptic’s criticism or questions.  The answer applies not only to the realm of the existence of the Christian God, but also to the subject of Textual Criticism. In a recent debate between Dr. Dan Wallace (Th.M. Ph.D.) who is a textual scholar and Bart Ehrman (Ph.D.), a textual scholar and skeptic; Dr. Wallace defended and confirmed the validity of the Scriptures with amazing clarity. Here are some of the proofs that came forth during this debate.

(1) Dr. Wallace proclaimed that the Church has a “embarrassment of riches” in regards to the manuscript evidence. Within two centuries of the penning of the New Testament autographs, we have copies or portions of 3 out of 4 Gospels, 9 of Paul’s epistles, Hebrews, Acts and Revelation.

(2) We can reproduce 40% of the New Testament by the manuscripts of the 2nd century. This is an amazing conformation of both the validity and accuracy of our modern translations.

(3) We have over 1,000,000 quotations from the early Church Fathers that can reproduce almost the entire Bible (please keep in mind that many of these quotations are from the Anti-Nicene fathers).

(4) We possess 5500+ Greek manuscripts (updated from last post), 10,000+ Latin manuscripts and a total of 20,000 hand written manuscripts.

(5) We have at least 12 manuscripts from the second century, 64 manuscripts from the 3rd century and 48 manuscripts from the fourth century. Thus, we have a total of 124 ancient manuscripts that fall within 300 years of the original autographs. This is more then any work of antiquity and adds to the validity and accuracy of the Gospel message.[17]

Working with the above facts, it is obvious that the Christian possesses ample textual evidence in which to reproduce and confirm the Biblical message and truth claim. However, it would also be very helpful to touch on textual variation issues with the unbeliever to clarify any misconceptions as to the accuracy and validity of the source of the Christian truth claim. There are four types of textual variants found within the manuscript tradition.

(1) Spelling or non-sense readings.

(2) Minor variations that do not effect the translation of the verse.

(3) Different readings that are not in themselves viable. Meaning, even these different readings do not effect the translation or message.

(4) Major variations that bring a different meaning to the translation and ARE viable.

Variation categories 1-3 do not effect the translation of the text or message. These first three categories comprise over 99% of the textual variations in Scripture. These are spelling issues or other minor issues that still allow the textual critic to give an accurate rendering to the text. Now, this fourth category is the main issue. These are variations within the manuscript tradition that does in fact affect the rendering of the verse. One example of this can be found in Revelation 13:16 where in one manuscript, the reading of the “mark of the beast” is 666. The variation of this is found in a Latin manuscript (the oldest surviving copy of Revelation) and the “mark of the beast” is recorded as 616. This is an example of a major variation with viability. Having clarified the difference between the variation types, it would be helpful to add one last thing. The major variations with viability consist of less then 1% of all variations! This is extremely important for at least two reasons. First, it allows the Christian to rest assured that he or she is reading the words penned by the original authors; thus they can trust the message therein. Second, there are no doctrines affected by these major variations. Therefore, the Christian can proclaim with confidence that the message of eternal life, justification by faith and other Christian essentials are without error. This fact was even admitted by the skeptic Bart Ehrman himself in thee afore mentioned debate. So, the Christian can rest assured that the English translation of the Bible that they possess is the inerrant word of God. But how can it be inerrant if there are issues within the manuscript evidence itself one might ask? For this we must look at the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (Article XIII) to obtain an outline of what inerrancy does not mean: 

1)      “Lack of modern technical precision.”

2)      “Irregularities of grammar or spelling.”

3)      “Observational descriptions of nature.”

4)      “Reporting of falsehoods.”

5)      “Hyperbole and round numbers.”

6)      “Topical arrangement of material” scripture does not need to be in chronological order; it can be topical.

7)      “Parallel accounts” different word usage does not show contradiction or 1,2,3 and 3,2,1.

8)      “Use of free citations” paraphrases can be used.[18]

     Working off of the Chicago Statement and comparing it to the New Testament manuscript tradition, the Christian is justified in proclaiming that we do in fact possess an inerrant Bible (although not inspired, that was reserved for the original autographs themselves). The abundance of MSS are consistent with one another and are also consistent with the teachings of the early Fathers, Lectionaries, and other writings. These MSS are also internally consistent and although textual variations are found, there is perfect harmony between all of the lines of transmission in regards to fundamental Christian doctrines.

     Lastly, it would be helpful to speak about the “tenacity of the text.” This term means that we have an over abundance of variations that add to the text of Scripture, but does not detract from the original rendering. Greek scholar and textual critic Barbara Aland defines “tenacity” as, “a stubborn resistance of the readings and the text types to change.”[19] What all this means is that we have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with 1025 pieces. We in fact have more information that we should, but not a lack of the original information. Therefore, scholars are able to reconstruct the original rendering or reading by the over abundance of information – but the original massage was not lost in any way! Therefore, we once again see that our English translation (based off of the reconstructed Greek text) are in fact accurate and the very words of God Himself and the objection is answered fully.

6. In an essay, answer the following question: Why is it important for the Christian to believe in the historicity of Jesus Christ? Or in other words, why is historicity important? The key word in this question is “why”; be sure to answer accordingly.         

     Forsaking all other writings, the author will now turn to the inherent and revealed word of God to explain “why” it is of the highest necessity for the Christian to believe in the historicity of Jesus Christ our Lord. First, true religion that grounds itself in the Christian God is essential for a proper worldview and understanding of the whole of human experience. There is simply no epistemological position that can be understood or regarded as worthy unless it is properly founded on Jesus Christ. It is the Apostle Paul that states about Jesus the Christ and His relationship to proper reasoning, truth and knowledge that He is the basis of; “…all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3, ESV). Next, the true faith of Christianity is founded upon the life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. Thus, without these truths, there is no basis for the faith whatsoever! Therefore, it is of most importance that the Christian understands and trusts the Christian truth claims. It is the Lord Jesus Himself that claimed that there is no other way to the father with this bold statement; “”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). Thus, there is no salvation and subsequently, no faith to base salvation off of without a hope and reasonable trust in this truth.

     Moving on, the Christian must have faith in the historical Christ and in the Scripture in general to truly understand what they are being saved from and whom it is that is interceding on their behalf. The Genesis 3 fall narrative not only explains the “why” of the necessity of salvation; but also the “who” that it is to be obtained from with this statement; “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15, ESV). With this proper knowledge, the Christian understands their need for the then coming and promised Redeemer; who came as the “propitiation” for the sins of mankind for all who will believe (Heb. 2:17, c.f. Rom. 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

     Moving on, it is only through trust in the message of God that one can have hope that this teaching and revelation is true, for if it is not, the Christian is to be most pitied as seen in the words of Paul when he proclaims;

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19, ESV)

     Thus, there truly is no hope at all without the understanding of the immutable truths as proclaimed about the only Son of God. With the foundations of ones faith being grounded in the revealed word of God and with its pointing to the Son as the only means of peace with the Holy Judge, the Christian must understand and believe the historicity and revelation about Him.

     To summarize, faith and knowledge in the true God and in particular, the Son of God Jesus Christ as the second member of the Trinity is essential to true epistemology. Jesus Christ is the source of all knowledge and wisdom and the Christian must submit their mind and actions to that revelation. Likewise, trust in the historic and orthodox teaching of Jesus is essential to understand sin and the method of salvation from the condition of sin. It is only through the Son that one can come to the Father; thus, salvation is only found in Jesus Christ. Lastly, it is the Son and the revelation about Him that forms the cornerstone or foundation of the Christian faith (Rom. 9:33). Thus, true, saving faith finds its foundation in Christ alone and the historical teachings therein for He is only pillar from which to build from.

 

Bibliography:

Aland, Barbara, Aland, Kurt. The Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans Publishing. 1987.

Bahnsen, Greg L. Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. McDurmon, Joel (Ed.). Powder Springs, GA. American Vision; Covenant Media Press. 2008.

English Standard Version (2001). Thomas Nelson (Ed.), Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishing

Erman, Bart. Wallace, Daniel. The Textual Reliability of the New Testament. Prod. Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum. 2008.

Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. 08 Sept. 09. http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org/library/extrabiblical.htm

Habermas, Gary, R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. College Press. Joplin, MO. 2008 (1996); pg. 45.

White, James R. The King James Only Controversy. Minneapolis, MN. Bethany House Publishing. 1995.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Chicago, IL. International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. 1978.


[1] Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. 08 Sept. 09. http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org/library/extrabiblical.htm

[2] Habermas, Gary, R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. College Press. Joplin, MO. 2008 (1996); pg. 45.

[3] Ibid., Habermas, pg. 45. All references

[4] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 187-217.

[5] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 188

[6] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 191

[7] Ibid. Habermas. pg. 192

[8] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 199

[9] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 122

[10] Ibid.

[11] White, James R. The King James Only Controversy. Minneapolis, MN. Bethany House Publishing. 1995, pg. 43.

[12] Ibid. White, pg. 43

[13] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 123

[14] False gods such as Allah are explained in the Qur’an as ultra-transcendent to the point that human language cannot describe him. Thus, the claim of the Qur’an is falsified due to the fact that is a book of language and revelation that describes him. Other false religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism cannot explain Induction because they reject Western logic; with the latter rejecting human experience via “Maya.” Atheism assumes and promotes a random and chance universe and thus, has no basis to assume the “uniformity of nature” because everything is simply “chance and random events.” Thus, they cannot account for Induction.

[15] Bahnsen, Greg L. Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. McDurmon, Joel (Ed.). Powder Springs, GA. American Vision; Covenant Media Press. 2008: Pg. 89-90.

[16] Ibid. Habermas, pg. 158, all citations.

[17] Erman, Bart. Wallace, Daniel. “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament.” Prod. Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum. 2008. All citations.

[18] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Chicago, IL. International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. 1978

[19] Aland, Barbara, Aland, Kurt. The Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans Publishing. 1987, pg. 69.

A Defense of Paedobaptism by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen

In light of my recent comments regarding the debate between Paedobaptists and Baptists, I decided to post an excellent article by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen on this subject. Dr. Bahnsen does an excellent job in explaining and defending the Paedobaptist position below and I hope this proves edifying.

 

PT171

The Counsel of Chalcedon (Part I-Vol. XV:2, April 1993; Part II-Vol. XV:3, May 1993; Part III-Vol. XV:4, June 1993) © Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938


“Cross-Examination:Infant Baptism”
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

 

There are Christians who interpret the Bible in light of a basic, covenantal continuity between the Old and New Testaments. Other believers make a dispensational discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments their main principle of interpretation. These different orientations result in conflicting systems of theology, as we have seen, but they also lead to very specific, practical differences in living out the Christian life.

In particular, the divergence between covenantal and non-covenantal approaches to Scripture comes to concrete expression in their differing views of the children of adult converts to the faith. Both schools of thought agree that the children of Christians are conceived and born in sin, that they need to be” born again” and exercise faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. But covenantal and non-covenantal theologies disagreeover the status of these children while their believing parent(s) pray for their children, nurture them, and await a Spirit-given profession of faith by them as they grow up.

Should the children of believers (or even one believer) be looked upon in the same way as those who belong to the world – no different from any other unregenerate child, a common unbeliever? Or should the children of believers be looked upon as set apart from the world unto God – members of the visible community formed by God’s saving covenant? In short, are the children of believers viewed by God as part of the defiled world or as part of the church on earth?

The answer to this question was obvious in the Old Testament. The children of believers were deemed part of the covenant community on earth. Nothing in the New Testament rescinds or cancels the perspective found in the Old Testament. Scripture duly warns us against taking anything away from what God has said (Deut. 4:2) or altering it based on our own authority (Matt. 5:19). Subtracting from God’s revelation or adding unauthorized alterations will earn divine disapprobation (e.g., Rev. 22:18-19). So let us begin by examining what the Old Testament taught about the children of believers.

God made a covenant with Abraham to bless Abraham himself in faith, to bless Abraham’s seed, and through Abraham to bless the Gentiles, “the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1-8). This same three-fold covenantal structure of intended blessing was reiterated at the very first, evangelistic proclamation by the New Testament church. On Pentecost Peter preached that “the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off [the Gentiles]” (Acts 2:39) – and he did so in the context of a call to be baptized (v. 38). The covenantal inclusion of the children of believers is a principle found in both Old and New Testaments, without abrogation.

The male children of the believer, Abraham, were to be given the token of the divine covenant, to be circumcised, even as Abraham was (Gen. 17:10-12); indeed, all the males in the believer’s household were set apart to God by the covenant sign of circumcision. What did circumcision signify? It was a token of “the righteousness of faith,” wrote Paul (Romans 4:11). Even those who had not personally come to faith as yet (eight-day old babies) and those who would never come to faith (e.g., Ishmael, Esau) were given the covenant sign of faith because they were in a believing household. The faith of their parents set them aside from the world as part of a “holy” (or consecrated) nation (cf. Ex. 19:6).

Likewise, in the earliest days of the New Testament church we see that the members of the entire household of a new convert were set apart with the covenant sign of baptism (Acts 16:14-15) – in virtue of their being part of the household (with no mention of profession of faith; cf. 1 Cor. 1:16). By baptism they were set apart from the world and incorporated into the body of Christ, the church (1 Cor. 12:12-13); they became part of God’s new “holy” nation (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). The Old Testament “baptisms” which are mentioned by New Testament writers – involving the ark (1 Peter 3:20-21) or being under the cloud and brought through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-2) – included whole households, just as did New Testament baptisms. So the principle of covenantal consecration for the household of a believer is one found in both Old and New Testaments, without abrogation.

The New Testament counterpart to circumcision as a sign of God’s covenant is baptism. Paul makes this connection explicit in Colossians 2:11-12, where he writes that members of the church have been spiritually “circumcised” by Christ, “having been buried with Him in baptism.” Circumcision was a mark that one belonged to God and was set apart from the defiled world (e.g., Ex. 12:48). In the same way, baptism sets one apart from the world and incorporates us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13). Circumcision symbolized the cleansing or cutting away of the sinful nature (“the flesh,” cf. Col. 2:13), as indicated in the Old Testament call for circumcised lips and heart (Ex. 6:12, 30; Jer. 4:4). Likewise, baptism symbolizes the cleansing of our sinful nature – the “washing away of your sins” (Acts 22:16).

Those who were circumcised were marked out as holy (consecrated to God) and cleansed (set apart from the defiled world of unbelief), although not every circumcised Jew lived up to what his circumcision symbolized. They were not all Israel who were of Israel (Rom. 9:6); their outward circumcision profited them nothing (Rom. 2:25-29). Likewise, those who are baptized are marked out as holy and cleansed, although not everyone who is baptized lives up to what that baptism symbolizes (e.g., Heb. 6:2-6; Acts 8:13, 20); the outward sign in itself will profit them nothing (1 Peter 3:21).

Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New is the covenant community on earth – those “called out” from the world (the ecclesia, the “church”) – a community exclusively made up of genuine believers or those guaranteed to be regenerate. God had to judge the covenant nation of Israel for her sins (e.g., Amos 3:2), even as Christ must reject a church which will not repent (e.g. Rev.3:16). Not all who profess that He is Lord are truly known by Him (Matt. 7:21-23). Circumcision, just like baptism, is administered to those who profess faith and to their households, without guaranteeing eternal salvation to either.

Both circumcision and baptism point to saving (cleansing) blessing and set apart their recipients from the world, even when their recipients did (or do) not demonstrate the reality of what was signified. The Old Testament church, both believers and their children, was required to “keep covenant with God” by living up to what the covenant sign indicated. Likewise believers and their children in the New Testament church must keep covenant with God and live up to what the covenant sign symbolizes: their cleansing and consecration (holiness).

This may seem confusing to some readers. How can a person bear the token of being clean and holy – and bear it at God’s direction – even though that person is not actually clean and holy? The answer is that such a person shares the designation of the wider religious community of which he or she is a part (i.e., the mixed church is viewed as “clean” and “holy” by her Redeemer), and that this designation is meant in a ritual or ceremonial sense. The church on earth as the community formed by God’s saving covenant has been “cleansed and consecrated” in a ceremonial or religious fashion, being looked upon in a special and sacred way by God. The covenant community has been set apart as His own unique people and separated from the common world of spiritual defilement and unbelief.

There is at least three ways in which the Bible uses the terminology of holiness and cleansing. We may think of holiness and cleanness as concepts which can be applied in an external sense (e.g., a “clean” sheet or “pure” gold, e.g. Matt. 27:56; Ex. 30:3). They may also be applied to inward matters in a moral sense (e.g., a “clean” heart or “holy” living, e.g. Ps. 24:4; 1 Peter 1:15). But there is also a third kind of way in which the Bible speaks of holiness and cleanness, a way which can be designated ceremonial or ritual.

The meats which were called “unclean” in the Old Testament were not given that designation because they were outwardly dirty or inwardly immoral. They were rather unclean in some ritual sense. They were “common” meats that the unbelieving world might eat, but not God’s special or holy (consecrated) people. (This distinction is maintained even today among Jews who observe dictates about “kosher” eating.) The words of Leviticus 11:44-47 are very insightful here. God commanded Israel: “Be holy… neither defile yourselves with any kind of [unclean meat]… make a distinction between the unclean and the clean.” Israel was to be “holy” (set apart, consecrated) by maintaining a “clean” diet. This “ritual” or ceremonial sense of cleanness and uncleanness is utilized throughout the Old Testament: e.g., Lev. 11:32; 13:58; 14:4; 15:13; 17:15; 20:25; 24:6-7; Deut. 23:10, etc.

The holiness and cleanness of the Old Testament Jews as God’s chosen people was not always in every case an internal, moral reality, and yet even with the unregenerate among them they were nonetheless the special people of God – “holy” and “clean” in the ceremonial or religious sense that He had entered into a saving covenant with them, setting them apart from the other nations or unbelieving groups of the world. That explains, for instance, why Ezra 6:21 speaks of the children of Israel who had come out of captivity and gone back to the holy city of Jerusalem as “all such as have separated themselves from the filthiness of the nations.” Once again Israel would be a “holy nation” for God’s own possession (cf. Ex. 19:5-6).

This concept of ceremonial or ritual “holiness” and “cleanness” is evident in the New Testament as well. When Jesus disputed with the Pharisees over making the outside of the cup “clean” (Matt. 23:25-26) or about the “defilement” of eating with unwashed hands (Matt. 15:2, 11, 20), neither party to the argument was concerned with physical filth or moral virtue. The controversy was over religious or ceremonial consecration (what was “kosher” or not, if you will). The New Testament often speaks of ceremonial cleansing or ritual purification (e.g., Luke 2:22; John 2:6; Luke 17:14, etc.). It is in this religious sense, quite obviously, that blood is said to be used for cleansing! (e.g., Heb. 9:14, 22-23; 1 John 1:7).

It is evident from Peter’s response to the sheet of meats from heaven that what is “unclean” was identical to what is “common,” not kosher (Acts 10:14; 11:8). Whatever has been “cleansed” by God is no longer in the category of the “common” (10:15). Those who are within the covenant community, the church, are set apart from the common world and viewed by God, therefore, as “clean.” As Paul wrote, in contrast to “those who are outside,” God has not called the church to be “unclean” but rather “holy” and set apart (1 Thess. 4:7, 12).

Christ’s redemptive work has “purified” (or “cleansed”) unto Himself a special people for God’s own possession (Titus 2:14). They are to be “separate” from the world – to “touch no unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). Paul says this right in the context of drawing a clear distinction between the church and the world, asserting that there is no “commonality” between them (vv. 14-16). The New Testament places the church in a religiously unique category, being viewed as “clean” or “cleansed” from the ordinary world of spiritual defilement.

Likewise, “holiness” is repeatedly used in the New Testament to speak of what is religiously or ritually set apart from the ordinary. Things which are special – things which are set apart from common use – are called “holy” (e.g., the unmarried virgin’s body, 1 Cor. 7:34). You do not mix the ordinary and extraordinary by giving what is “holy” to dogs, nor pearls to swine, said Jesus (Matt. 7:6). The temple precincts were not ordinary ground, but consecrated – thus “holy” (e.g., Acts 6:13; 21:28; 1 Cor. 3:17; Heb. 8:2;9:1-3). The place of the burning bush was “holy” ground as well (Acts 7:33). Every male that is born is said to be set apart (“holy”) unto the Lord, even if they grow up to be spiritual rebels (Luke 2:23). Despite the rebellion of Old Testament Israel, it was God’s consecrated or “holy nation.” And even though unbelief and murderous sin was found in her, the city of Jerusalem is called the “holy city” because chosen and set apart by God (Matt. 4:5; Rev. 11:2; 21:2, 10; 22:19).

The Old Testament writings were in a special category from other human works, being the “holy scriptures” (Rom. 1:2). The men who wrote them were set apart from others – were “holy” men or prophets (2 Peter 1:21; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21). Our brothers within the church are a special kind of family relation –a “holy brotherhood” (Heb. 3:1). Likewise, the kiss or greeting which is given between believers is not an ordinary or common kiss, but a “holy kiss” (Rom.16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20, etc.). Examples could be multiplied where “holiness” takes the sense of set apart from common use (consecrated to a special purpose). But of special interest is the way in which the New Testament designates God’s people as “the holy ones” or “saints” (Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 8:27;1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; etc.). Regardless of their inward imperfection and daily sin, those who are joined to Christ as members of the church are called “set apart” or “holy” by God.

Our short examination of Scripture has made us aware, now, that the mixed spiritual community of Old Testament Israel was deemed by God as separated from the defiled world of unbelief, being “clean” and “holy” in a ceremonial or ritual sense. Similarly, the New Testament covenant community, despite its flaws, is looked upon by God as consecrated from the world of unbelief and spiritual defilement, being “clean” and “holy” in His sight.

Now then, what is the outward or ceremonial mark which is placed on those in the New Testament that are deemed “cleansed” (or “clean”) and “holy” (set apart or consecrated to God)? As every student of Scripture knows, it is the mark of baptism. Baptism “incorporates” us into the body of Christ, setting us apart from the world (1 Cor. 12:12-13). In the New Testament baptism is likewise seen as a symbol of cleansing (Acts 22:16). Thus the dispute over “cleansing” (purifying) in John 3:25 was connected to the practice of baptism (vv. 22-23, 26). Likewise, in Luke 11:38-39, the controversy over “cleansing” was occasioned by Jesus not “baptizing” (washing) Himself before the meal.

By His redemptive work Christ has cleansed the church and set it apart from the world as His bride. This is Paul’s well known teaching in Ephesians 5. Notice in verse 26 how Paul uses both the concepts of “holiness” (to sanctify, set apart) and “cleansing.” He writes that Christ gave Himself up for the church “in order that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water in the sphere of the word.” The outward symbol that the church is holy and clean is baptism, “the washing of water.” In Hebrews 10:22-23 we read that those who are in the church – “the household of God” – are to show hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, “having our body washed ["cleansed"] with pure water,” words which point to baptism as the outward sign of an inward grace.

The question which we set out to answer is whether the children of believers (or of one believing parent) should be given this ceremonial mark or token of the covenant. And the answer to that question comes down to how we should view the children of believers. Are they part of the common and defiled world, or are they part of the cleansed and consecrated covenant community, the church? The Apostle Paul gives us a brief, clear answer that goes right to the point in 1 Corinthians 7:14.

In the context of this verse Paul explains why a believing husband or wife should not depart from his/her unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:10-17), and he introduces the notion of covenantal consecration (the ceremonial sense of “holiness”). According to Paul’s theology, there is a sense in which the unbelieving spouse is “sanctified” – made holy or set apart – through his or her affiliation with the believing husband or wife. This cannot mean that the unbeliever is inwardly clean and regenerate; that is obvious. Nevertheless, the unbelieving spouse is “holy” – in the sense of being consecrated unto God, standing in covenantal relation with Him in virtue of being part of a believing household. It may be in the gracious plan of God that the believing mate will “save” the unbelieving partner (v. 16). But until that time – or until the unbeliever departs (v. 15) – that non-Christian husband or wife, as part of the household, remains set apart from the world or “holy” in the sight of God.

Notice this further point. As a passing reinforcement of his explanation about covenantal consecration of the unbelieving spouse, Paul adds one more, short remark without elaboration (indicating that he expected his audience to understand the concept already). This is something which is just taken for granted in terms of New Testament theology. What he says at the end of verse 14 is this: “otherwise your children would be unclean, but now are they holy.” That is, the children of even one believer are, in virtue of that family affiliation, viewed in a special way by God. They are not categorized with the world, even though they are as yet unbelievers. They are viewed – just as we have seen that the church as a whole is viewed – as “clean” and as “holy.” Children of believers are not seen as part of the common world of unbelief and spiritual defilement, despite their need to come to conversion and confess faith in Christ the Savior. They are already “set apart” from the world and in a special, consecrated relationship to the Lord of the covenant because of their believing parent(s). They are deemed by God part of the covenant community on earth, the church – those whom Christ has made “holy, cleansing” them through the washing of water in the sphere of the word (cf. Eph. 5:26).

In fact, when Paul writes to “the saints” at Ephesus (1:1), and exhorts the various groups within the body of Christ (4:4-5), he addresses wives (5:22ff.), husbands (5:25ff.), children (6:1ff.), and servants (6:5ff.) – which certainly looks like the traditional breakdown of a household. But the point is that children as a class were included within the church by Paul – as well as by John (e.g., 1 John 2:13). And why not? Jesus taught that they belonged to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14); He honored the praise of their mouths (Matt.21:16) and blessed them in His arms (Matt. 19:13, 15). The Lord was indignant with those who prevented children from being brought to Him (Mark 10:14). How dare we do so today?

Paul’s words are decisive for the issue of infant baptism. The children of believers, although born in sin and in need of regeneration, have the religious or covenantal status of “clean” and”holy” – the status which is ritually typified or signified in the New Testament sacrament of baptism (as it was in the Old Testament sacrament of circumcision). It makes no theological sense to maintain on one hand, as Scripture testifies, that the children of believers are clean and holy, but then on the other hand to withhold from them the God-given, covenantal sign of that holy, clean status.

Question: But the New Testament calls for those who repent and believe in Christ for salvation to be baptized. Young children who cannot even speak as yet have not repented and believed in Christ.

Answer: Isn’t that what makes it so amazing that God yet calls them “holy and clean”! Who are we to dispute with God? Our young children are not yet believers, but they are already covenantally consecrated unto God. Just as in the Old Testament eight-day old babies were circumcised, which was a sign of the righteousness “of faith” (Rom. 4:11) – a faith they did not yet have or exercise – so also the New Testament would apply to the children of believers the symbolof salvation by faith, even before those children have come to faith in their own experience.

Nothing said here changes the fact that those who are converted as adults need to be baptized, exactly as the New Testament teaches. The reasoning of those who argue that we should baptize only those who profess faith distorts the actual text of Scripture (due to preconceptions brought to the text, rather than taken from it). They change the proposition “All who repent and believe must be baptized” into the logically different proposition that “All who are baptized must have repented and believed.”

Question: But isn’t it one of the differences between the Old and New Covenants that in the New Covenant only those who are spiritually reborn – only truly regenerated people – are members of the church?

Answer: If we are speaking of the “invisible church” (all the elect), then it is equally true of the Old Covenant that only those who were regenerated were members of the church. But if we are speaking of the “visible” church on earth, then it would be mistaken to say that only the truly regenerate are members. Simon Magus was baptized and a member of the church, but was not regenerate (Acts 8:13, 20-23). But was this simply a mistake on the part of the church in baptizing a hypocrite? No, Simon was truly in covenant with God; because of his unrepentant sin he came under the curse of the covenant (as did Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5).

But are unregenerate people ever members of the covenant community “in God’s eyes”? Again, the answer would have to be yes. Luke’s gospel informs us that Judas Iscariot was at the Lord’s Table after the institution of the Lord’s Supper (22:20-21). Unless we are willing to say Luke was in error – and sadly even some conservative commentators are so bold as to suggest it – we must conclude that the Lord of the New Covenant served a token of covenant membership to one whom He knew to be a covenant-breaker, the very “son of perdition.” Therefore, the “Baptistic” argument that the signs of the covenant are intended only for regenerated people goes beyond, and even against, the teaching of Scripture.

The initiating sign of the covenant is for all those who are in covenant with God, according to His own revealed criteria and direction. The pages of Scripture teach us that these are believers as well as their offspring (and indeed their whole households).

Free Bahnsen MP3′s

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Dr. Greg Bahnsen lecture or speak, here is your chance. Covenant Media Foundation is offering  two  FREE MP3′s of Dr. Bahnsen’s, with no strings attached. Simply click here and download.  These teachings are highly suggested and will serve as a great introduction to this gifted man of God…and you can’t beat the price!

For those interested in a wider variety of lectures from Dr. Bahnsen, click here.

Dr. Greg Bahnsen vs. the “Theory” of Evolution

One of the greatest minds of the 20th century was that of Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, a philosopher, theologian and minister in the OPC. Dr. Bahnsen was known as “The man that atheists fear most.” He earned that nickname when the famed atheist philosopher Dr. Michael Martin pulled out of a debate with him, just days before the event was to take place (a wise move indeed). In the video posted below, Dr. Bahnsen addresses the topic of evolution and the philosophical impossibilities with this ‘theory.’ The entire lecture can be found here and I would like to thank the Covenant Media Foundation for the use of this clip.

Greg Bahnsen v. Pagan on Moral Absolutes

In the clip below, Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Man That Atheists Fear Most” was giving a lecture on the campus of Arizona State University (I believe) when a self-professed pagan attempted to challenge him on the topic of moral absolutes and the Bible. What follows is the logical conclusion of those who deny moral absolutes in favor of “Subjectivism.” Thank you to the Covenant Media Foundation for the use of this clip.

There Is No Neutrality

[T]he Christian and the unbeliever do not and cannot approach their differences with argumentative and or philosophical neutrality. Even though the Christian and non-Christian have the facts of the objective world in common, they have radically divergent interpretations of them. For the Christian, all facts are pre-interpreted by God, created by God and revelatory by God; they must be handled in such a way that glory is brought to God. But the non-Christian views these facts as meaningfully interpreted only by his own mind, as uncreated and free from God’s control, as ambiguous and contingent; he uses them to bring glory to man. Hence, the Christian and non-Christian have different interpretative schemes.i

Dr. Bahnsen is spot-on correct in the above quotation and keep that in mind as you read below;

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.ii

And finally, note the wise words of Dr. Jason Lisle on the topic of inconsistent worldviews, as seen above;

If a worldview has internal contradictions, then it cannot be correct since contradictions cannot be true. Moreover, some worldviews lead to the strange consequence that it is impossible to actually know anything. Such a worldview is rationally defective since it would be impossible to know that it is true. So although everyone has an ultimate standard, not all ultimate standards will provide a self-consistent worldview in which knowledge is possible. If a worldview is self-contradictory, or has absurd consequences, then it cannot be correct. As an example, consider the philosophy of relativism. Relativists believe that truth is “relative” — that it varies from person to person. Relativism includes the idea that there are no absolutes. But the proposition that “there are no absolutes” is itself an absolute proposition. Relativists assert that it is absolutely true that truth is not absolute. This is a self-defeating philosophy. If relativism were absolutely true, it would lead to the consequence that it cannot be absolutely true. So, if it were true, it would be false; therefore it is false. As another example, consider the philosophy of empiricism. This is the idea that all knowledge is gained through observation. Now of course I do believe that some knowledge is gained through observation — this is perfectly consistent with Scripture.4 God made our senses to reliably probe the universe, and so there is nothing wrong with empirical methods. But the philosophy of empiricism goes much further than this. Empiricists believe that all knowledge is acquired by observation.5 Or to put it another way, observation is the ultimate standard by which all truth claims are tested. And that I do not believe. I have found, however, that many evolutionists are empiricists. We must eventually ask the empiricist how he knows that “all knowledge is gained through observation.” Clearly this is not something that the empiricist has observed (since knowledge cannot be “seen.”) So then how could anyone possibly know that empiricism itself is true, if all things are indeed known by observation? If empiricism is proved in some way other than through observation, then it refutes itself. If the empiricist’s ultimate standard did happen to be true, the empiricist could never actually know that it is true; he could never prove it. And if a person’s ultimate standard is uncertain, then all his other beliefs (which are based on that standard) are called into question. Empiricism destroys the possibility of actually knowing anything.iii

i Bahnsen, Greg L. Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. McDurmon, Joel (Ed.). Powder Springs, GA. American Vision; Covenant Media Press. 2008: Pg. 89-90.

ii Lewontin, Richard. “Billions and Billions of Demons.” January 9, 1997

iiiLisle, Jason. The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Location 422 (Kindle). 2010

God’s Knowledge and Necessity Part 5: Calvinism v. Molinism

Recently, I have been studying the topic of Molinism, which some view as an alternative to the classical Reformed understanding of “Compatibilism.” While studying this topic, I contacted a philosopher that has debated this issue in favor of the Molinist view-point and we agreed that the following is not valid:

p1: Necessarily (if God foreknows X, then X will occur).
p2: God foreknows X.
C: Therefore, necessarily (X will occur).

As mentioned in previous posts, just because God perfectly foreknows a future event (event X), and because of this foreknowledge, the event (X) will certainly come to pass, it does not follow that the event in question comes about necessarily. It is not a truth of logic. As noted, we agreed on this point, as have all Calvinistic theologians that I know of since the Reformation. So, this is not new to the Reformed position. What we disagreed on is the basis of that foreknowledge. The Calvinist believes that the foreknowledge of God is based upon His sovereign decree of all things (Isa. 46:9-11, Acts 4:27-28, Eph. 1:11); with the Molinist believing that God has a sort of Middle Knowledge, whereby He can know what a free creature will do in any and all circumstances.

One of the interesting aspects of our discussion took place when this philosopher stated the following;

Thus, when God is said to be delimited by human free will it isn’t because God caves to a libertarian idol, but that God cannot bring about contradictions. God cannot (per impossibile) make someone freely do something. Therefore, God’s inability to create just any possible world is no more a hindrance on His sovereignty than God’s inability to create “a rock so big He can’t lift it” a hindrance on God’s omnipotence. (emphasis mine)

Pay close attention to what is being stated above because this philosopher is claiming that the Law of Non-contradiction (Law of NC) prohibits person “X” from doing freely, what God has decreed in eternity past. This individual buttresses this comment with another example of the Law of NC when he cites God’s inability to create “a rock so big He Can’t lift it…” Now I grant that the latter of these is a violation of the Law of NC. It is a logical impossibility. But, is the former a problem for the Calvinist? Is it a violation of the Law of NC to proclaim that man does what God has ordained and that he does it freely? To figure this out, let us first look at what the Law of NC is. The Law of Non-contradiction states, in general terms, that something cannot be both ‘A’ and ‘Not A’  at the same time and in the same sense. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why God could not in fact create a rock so big that He could not lift it.

But, what about the issue at hand? Is it beyond God’s power that man freely works out what He has previously decreed? Well, it certainly is not a violation of the Law of NC, because on this issue, we are speaking of different senses of the word “can.” The great philosopher Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen states it like this to his seminary class;

Bahnsen: Can I get to California today?

Class: Yes, you can get on an airplane and fly to California.

Bahnsen: Not at all. All the willing of that in the world won’t get me to California today. It’s not within my physical ability to get to California today. What am I getting at when I say that? I’m saying that over and against the conditions, the friction of the world, the strength in my legs and so forth, even if I run as fast as I can, I can’t get to California by midnight tonight. So you see, my saying that I ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ is always ‘can’ over and against what condition. So someone says ‘Of course you can get to California tonight; you get on a plane and you’ll get there on time.’ And that person who says ‘yes, you can’ is speaking of ‘can’ over and against another set of conditions. Over and against another boundary, if you will, of conditions. Namely, the conditions that you have a mechanical device that can go so fast and it’s in good working order and you get to the airport on time and all that. Can you? Well, yes you can. Can you? Well, no you can’t…[the word] ‘can’ has to be understood over and against its condition; over and against the limits you have in mind when you ask a question. http://www.cmfnow.com/search.aspx?find=foreordination&log=false&category=207

In short, what Dr. Bahnsen is stating here is that the Bible teaches that man cannot do other than God has ordained (the question is asked; “’Can’ man do other than God has ordained?” with the answer being, obviously, no. This is speaking in regards to God’s decreedal will and not His prescribed will). But, man can do other than that which he has done. And, these two senses do not in any way conflict with each other or violate the Law of NC because they are different senses of the word “can.” Hence, man is responsible for his actions (God coerces no one to sin) and God’s sovereign decree is seen to be standing. And, both of these teachings are clearly present within the pages of the Bible. Hence, this is not, as the Molinist states, a logical problem for the Calvinist because there is no logical contradiction involved in the Calvinist’s claim of Compatibilism. Rather, this is a metaphysical issue. How does God bring about that someone does what He has ordained, freely, of their own will and without coercion? To quote Dr. Bahnsen; “I don’t know and I don’t own an answer to that question. That just means that God has a lot more power than I do. I don’t know how He parted the Red Sea either and I really don’t know how He’s going to bring about the New Heaven and New Earth.” I believe John Calvin said it best when he proclaimed about the mystery of predestination, the following;

The discussion of Predestination—a subject of itself rather intricate—is made very perplexed, and therefore dangerous, by human curiosity, which no barriers can restrain from wandering into forbidden labyrinths, and from soaring beyond its sphere, as if determined to leave none of the Divine secrets unscrutinized or unexplored . . . First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into Predestination, they penetrate into the inmost recesses of divine wisdom, where the careless and confident intruder will obtain no satisfaction to his curiosity . . . For we know that when we have exceeded the limits of the word, we shall get into a devious and irksome course, in which errors, slips, and falls will be inevitable. Let us then, in the first place bear in mind, that to desire any more knowledge of Predestination than that which is unfolded in the Word of God, indicates as great folly as to wish to walk through impassible roads, or to see in the dark. Nor let us be ashamed to be ignorant of some things relative to a subject in which there is a kind of learned ignorance. (Institutes, Ch. XXI, sect. I, II.)

The Apologetic Implications of Self Deception

Over the next few weeks, I will be doing a series on Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen’s work, “The Apologetic Implications of Self-Deception: A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception.” For any and all who would like to follow along during this study, this book can be obtained in a variety of different formats, by clicking HERE. The topic of “self-deception” was Dr. Bahnsen’s doctoral dissertation subject and if I know anything about Dr. Bahnsen, this book is going to jam-packed with information to make the reader think. Below is Dr. Bahnsen’s bio from Covenant Media Foundation.

 Greg L. Bahnsen, Ph.D.
September 17, 1948 — December 11, 1995


Greg L. Bahnsen, (1948-1995), was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church    and a full time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California, specializing in the theory of knowledge. He previously received the B.A. (magna cum laude, philosophy) from Westmont College, and then simultaneously earned the M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Bahnsen lectured to a broad range of evangelical Christian groups at many colleges and conferences. He was an experienced apologist and debater, a clear and cogent teacher of the Christian worldview who was devoted to training believers in understanding and applying the Christian faith to every area of life. He published numerous scholarly articles, a number of well-known books, and has over 1,500 recorded lectures and sermons. NOTE: While Dr. Bahnsen died on December 11th, 1995, his audio tapes and written materials were, and still remain, the foundation for Covenant Media Foundation’s ministry.

1 Cor. 6:9 and the Homosexual: Part 2

An article that I have found very helpful of the subject of homosexuality and the Bible comes by way of  Thomas R. Schreiner, from SBTS. In his article, “A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality,” Dr. Schreiner breaks down the main arguments from the Scriptures on this issue, showing clearly, the prohibition against such actions. He also gives an excellent overview of Jewish extra-biblical sources on this issue, which all unilaterally condemn such actions. This should prove to be a very helpful essay.

Another excellent resource is the late Greg L. Bahnsen’s journal article; “In the Shadow of Sodom: Does the Bible Really Say What We Thought About Homosexuality?” Dr. Bahnsen was an amazing apologist, philosopher and theologian (he was nicknamed “The Man that Atheists Fear Most”), who also authored a book on this subject titled, “Homosexuality: A Biblical View,” as well as engaging in a number of public debates on this issue.