What Is Presuppositional Apologetics? (Course, P1)

The material out there about presuppositional apologetics can be overwhelming, confusing, and conflicting, so the purpose of this course is to help explain presuppositional apologetics in a way that’s a little more accessible, engaging, understandable, organized, and concise.

There is no overarching plan for this course as of right now. I’ll just make about what I think might be useful topics when I have time. Who am I? I’m Michael, and I’m just a regular Christian with a regular job. I attend Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, which Voddie Baucham helped start. I’m married and have two young children, which explains why I can’t make any promises about the future of this course.

In this first video, we’re going to do two things:

  1. First, we’ll talk just a little bit about Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, and Greg Bahnsen, probably the three most well-known people associated with presuppositional apologetics, and the approach I’m going to take in this course regarding the two different sides.
  2. And second, we’ll define what presuppositional apologetics is. 

Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, and Greg Bahnsen

So first, let’s talk just a little bit about Clark, Van Til, and Bahnsen.

Van Til and Clark had significant disagreements with one another, which manifested in the Clark-Van Til Controversy. Bahnsen was a student and proponent of Van Til’s teachings, and some might say Bahnsen was a better proponent of Van Til’s teachings than Van Til himself.

I would say Van Til and Bahnsen are much more popular today than Clark. Some other well-known proponents of Van Til’s teachings are James White, Jeff Durbin, and Scott Oliphant (o-la-fint). One of the most well-known proponents of Clark’s teachings is the late John Robbins, who founded the Trinity Foundation. Maybe one reason why Clark isn’t more popular today is that many people, including many Clarkians, have a negative view of Robbins. Also, Bahnsen has written a long critique of Clark’s teachings in his book, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended.

I have a lot of respect for Van Til and all of these “Van Tillians,” but to be upfront, I find Clark’s teachings to be more compelling and persuasive, and I’ll talk more about this in future videos. I do think that there are more similarities between Van Til and Clark’s teachings than most people think, although there are certainly some significant differences. 

In this course, we’re going to try to focus on presenting apologetic principles in a way that both sides can probably generally agree upon, and if there are differences that need to be mentioned, we’ll talk about them.

What Is Presuppositional Apologetics?

Second, what is presuppositional apologetics? Wikipedia actually has a good definition. It says that “Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews.”

Presuppositional apologetics is different from evidential apologetics. Whereas evidential apologetics starts with evidence and uses evidence to try to prove that the Bible is true, presuppositional apologetics starts with the position that the Bible is true and argues that the Bible is the only basis for rational thought.

In other words, the Bible is epistemologically necessary. Epistemology deals with the question of how knowledge is possible. So, presuppositional apologetics argues that without biblical revelation as our starting point, knowledge itself would be impossible. This would mean that all arguments against the Bible fail because they must first presuppose the Bible to even make sense.

The argument that knowledge is impossible without the Bible is an indirect one, and it involves doing two things.

  • One thing we do is demonstrate that the biblical worldview provides us with the possibility of knowledge, as well as a sufficient worldview that is self-consistent, or non-contradictory.
  • Another thing we do is demonstrate that non-biblical worldviews fail because they do not provide us with the possibility of knowledge, do not provide us with enough knowledge, and/or are self-contradictory.

So this is a very brief introduction to presuppositional apologetics. In the next video, we’ll talk about what is probably the most common criticism against presuppositional apologetics, which is that it uses circular reasoning.

Note: The video has not been made yet.

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