Response to Bahnsen’s Review of Sproul

This is an introductory response to Bahnsen’s review of Sproul’s Classical Apologetics.  I plan a more detailed one later.  I left my copy in another town.  There are many weaknesses in CVT’s approach, but I have to have my copy in front of me in order to do a full analysis. Lord willing, I should do that in a few weeks.

Response to Bahnsen’s Review

(The original review is here:

Bahnsen: He criticizes their attack on secularism because, given their def. Of secularism as limiting reality to the temporal order, the secularist won’t agree with any proof they offer (p. 2).  

That’s an odd criticism to make.  Presumably, the authors, like every other apologist, Bahnsen included, will attempt to show that the secularist is wrong on that point.

Bahnsen: they cannot legitimately appeal to “natural theology” since on their terms natural revelation assumes special revelation, which assumes the existence of God (2).   

The second part of that claim is true, though I don’t see why it is necessarily a problem.  Sproul et al admit bias.  I think Bahnsen’s target here is probably JW Montgomery.

Bahnsen: their use of Scripture (Ps. 19) doesn’t prove their case, for if natural theology is man’s reflection on natural revelation, then Scripture isn’t doing that.

This isn’t entirely true.  Part of the problem is the tendency among presupps to reduce natural theology to nature itself. If that is what natural theology is, then we don’t see the psalmists doing that.  On the other hand, natural theology as used by Sproul and the historic Christian tradition includes legitimate inferences from logical foundations, even at times drawing upon non-Christian wisdom.  The most notorious point is Paul’s quoting a pantheist philosopher.  Evidently, that philosopher had at least one legitimate reflection.

Bahnsen on noetic effects: He takes issue with apologetics as pre-evangelism, as the sinner won’t even agree to an assensus of faith to the propositions without the Holy Spirit (3).  

This is simply false. Anyone who has done evangelism has been in situations where an unbeliever will say, “Yeah, that makes sense or I can agree with that but I don’t want to change my life.”  Moreover, it is not true in Scripture that one needs the Holy Spirit for intellectual assent.  Demons, for example, given intellectual assent to the most important proposition one can make about God.

Bahnsen: he attacks their use of causality (i.e., every effect has a cause) and points to Hume.  

Aside from implying Hume’s criticism of causality, Bahnsen gives no reason to believe Sproul is wrong.

Bahnsen on cosmological argument:  I’ll grant Bahnsen a point here.  I don’t like how Sproul phrased it:  if something exists now, then something exists necessarily.  There are much better presentations of the cosmological argument and I never liked how Sproul phrased this one.  Bahnsen attacks the claim that this cause has the power of being in itself as incoherent.  That’s just standard Christian theism.  Beings have energia.  That’s almost true by definition.

Bahnsen: the authors give us no reason to believe that the world can’t be an infinite regress.

Response: yes they do. The explanation for a cause must be outside that cause itself.  If this is true, and Bahnsen has given us no argument on why it isn’t, then the cause will be outside the temporal order.

That’s more or less Bahnsen’s review.  He devotes the last page to rescuing Van Til from the charge of fideism.  Even if that attempt is successful, it ignores all the real criticisms of Van Til.  Consider: does the sinner have false knowledge of God?  If he does, then why is he suppressing it?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that he has knowledge of God and that is why he is suppressing it?


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