Monthly Archives: August 2016

VIDEO: How to Understand Greg Bahnsen

GregBahnsenportraitIn 1985, the Great Debate on “Does God Exist” was held at the University of California-Irvine campus.  Defending the atheist position was Dr. Gordon Stein.  Defending the Christian/theist position was Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen.

It was historic.  Like Ali-Frazier.  “The Thrilla in Southern Californilla.”  To say that Bahnsen cleaned Stein’s non-intelligently-designed clock is to put it mildly.  He took Stein to school and put on a debate clinic for the audience.

You can watch (listen to) the entire debate here:

This was vintage Bahnsen.  An intellectual-academic heavyweight delivering philosophical and apologetic knock-out punches in rapid-fire succession against any and all non-Christian, non-biblical worldviews and arguments against God, the Bible and the doctrines of the Bible.

He was a world champion/gold-medalist in the arena of Christian apologetics.  Nobody could beat him.  (Only complications from a heart-valve surgery in 1995 would finally end his brief and brilliant but turbulent career as a pastor and academic superstar.)  Nobody could beat him on the debate stage.  So his real enemies — fellow Reformed Christian ministers and academics — simply kicked him out of their confessionally-conflicted, ethically-challenged clubs

Bahnsen embraced Van Til’s apologetics.  Unfortunately for his academic and ministerial career, he also embraced theonomy.  And his peers in the denominational world — which was his “first love” (as a good friend of his eulogized on the 20th anniversary of his death) — made sure that he paid dearly for this unpardonable sin.

He was betrayed both by his church brethren–the Orthodox Presbyterian Church–and by his scholastic brethren–Reformed Seminary and Westminster Seminary.  Joel McDurmon has compiled a collection of documents having to do with Bahnsen’s unfounded termination from Reformed Seminary.  Gary North wrote a book (Westminster’s Confession) that was occasioned by Westminster’s fateful decision to abandon Van Til’s legacy by refusing to hire Dr. Van Til’s hand-picked replacement — Dr. Greg Bahnsen — to head up the apologetics department there, on the unofficial grounds that Bahnsen was now a theonomic powerhouse, a forceful proponent of what Dr. North called “a positive judicial alternative to natural law theory,” and Westminster’s president Edmund Clowney would have none of that, especially with so formidable an advocate as Bahnsen.  So in the end nepotism won out over God’s law, and Clowney hired his uniquely underqualified (and non-Van Tillian) son to take over Van Til’s chair.

Bahnsen’s road through life was no primrose path.  The champ took a beating.  But he kept on defeating, apologetically speaking.  He remained undefeated.  He “fought the good fight,” and he kept the faith.

His legacy lives on through the Bahnsen Conferences, Covenant Media Foundation, and through his numerous books and articles.  In early 2016, Kenneth Samples gave a brief vignette of Dr. Bahnsen in this talk that was recorded at Branch of Hope Church in Torrance California.



VIDEO: How to Understand Cornelius Van Til

CorneliusVanTilteachingThough he might not be high on your list of great Christian thinkers you’d like to understand better, Cornelius Van Til turns out to be very high on the list of Christian thinkers who have influenced generations of other Christian thinkers, scholars and leaders — including those best known for laying the foundations of what we call “Christian Reconstruction.”

Let’s face it, we might not have presuppositional apologetics — a term Van Til did not invent but which he did accept — if Van Til had not shared with the world his deeply held conviction that all defense of the Christian faith must begin with the assumption — the irrefutable premise — that the Holy Scriptures are the infallible, inspired Word of God, and that the historic, orthodox Christian faith is true.  Therefore, everything that contradicts the Scriptures and is contrary to what the historic Christian faith teaches about God and about the created universe (what we call “reality”) is false.  More than false, it is impossible.

His most famous quote is probably this one:

The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks.  Moreover, it speaks on everything.

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint teaches apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.   Cornelius Van Til was one of his professors.  He got to know Dr. Van Til personally in a unique way.   Spoiler non-alert: I’m not going to tell you how he got to know Dr. Van Til.  I’ll let Oliphint tell you that.

Dr. Oliphint gave a talk in January 2016 at Branch of Hope Presbyterian Church on “understanding” Cornelius Val Til.

Undertanding Van Til…  Now, THAT is a tall order!

Still, if there is anyone that can help you make sense not only of this lovable Dutch philosopher who single-handedly turned the apologetics world upside-down, but also of the whole realm of Christian doctrine that calls on EVERY Christian to be ready to defend his faith and proclaim the truth of it –“giving a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15) — it is Dr. K. Scott Oliphint.

Here he is, speaking candidly and cordially about Cornelius Van Til.

Incidentally, Dr. Oliphint would like you to stop calling it “presuppositional” apologetics: too much philosophical baggage.  Instead, he would rather you use a term he coined for this ancient Christian discipline: covenantal apologetics.

VIDEO: How to Understand Gary North

GaryNorthatMises“Understand Gary North?”

Sounds like a pretty tall order

Not really.

Not if you understand, first, the men who influenced Dr. North early in his Christian, post-graduate academic life.

Then (and only then), can you begin to understand what makes him tick.  You will also, then, begin to understand what makes him tap: tap millions and millions of keystrokes over his half-century, contrarian career as a writer and speaker, to produce dozens of books, large and small, plus big, fat commentaries (economic) on the books of the Bible, plus newsletters and many thousands of articles written day after day after day, on everything from money to “millennialism and social theory,” all from the perspective of what the Bible and the historic, orthodox Reformed Christian faith have to say about all of these things.

No problem.

You start with John Murray, venerable professor at Westminster Seminary for nearly four decades (1930-1966), whose classes on ethics, systematic theology and the book of Romans served as an exegetical and eschatological wake up call to a young Gary North.

Then you add the uncompromising Christian apologetics philosophy of Cornelius Van Til, who unapologetically held court at Westminster Seminary for 43 years (before retiring in 1973).

Toss in a mind for truth, and a heart for God and His Word, and, presto.

Instant paradigm shift!

Hmm.  A Scotsman and a Dutchman…

No wonder Gary North ended up Reformed and Presbyterian!

Anyway, here is Dr. Joel McDurmon, son-in-law to the curmudgeonly co-founder of the Christian Reconstruction movement, speaking about the things (and people), that massively shaped the thinking and theology of his famous (infamous) father-in-law.

Of course, there were other men whose work and writings informed and profoundly influenced Dr. North’s developing views.  Conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet, under whom he studied while obtaining his master’s and Ph D. degrees at the University of California-Riverside.   And ultimately, R.J. Rushdoony, the man who finally launched Gary’s fully-integrated biblical perspective into a permanent Reconstructionist orbit — and the man who, likewise, ultimately became his father-in-law.

Covenantal history repeats itself.

This talk was given in early 2016 at Branch of Hope Church (OPC) in Torrance, California.