Greg Bahnsen

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Greg L. Bahnsen
Born (1948-09-17)September 17, 1948
Auburn, Washington
Died December 11, 1995(1995-12-11) (aged 47)
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Southern California (PhD, 1978)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Presuppositionalism, Christian Philosophy
Notable ideas
Presuppositional apologetics, Postmillennialism, Theonomy

Greg L. Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS). He is also considered a contributor to the field of Christian apologetics, as he popularized the presuppositional method of Cornelius Van Til.[2]

Early life and education

He was the first born of two sons of Robert and Virginia Bahnsen in Auburn, Washington, and grew up in Pico Rivera, California. In youth he was beset by a number of medical difficulties, the most serious of which was a lifelong blood platelet problem that made it difficult for him to stop bleeding. He also had heart trouble which came to light only during his first college admissions medical exam.

Raised in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he actively participated in religious activities. He first began reading the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til when in high school. While attending Westmont College he began writing for the Chalcedon Foundation of Rousas J. Rushdoony and soon came to admire the latter's strong Calvinistic convictions.

In 1970 Bahnsen graduated magna cum laude from Westmont College, receiving his B.A. in philosophy as well as the John Bunyan Smith Award for his overall grade point average. From there he went on to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied under Cornelius Van Til. The two became close friends. When he graduated in May 1973, he simultaneously received two degrees, Master of Divinity and Master of Theology, as well as the William Benton Greene Prize in apologetics and a Richard Weaver Fellowship from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. His next academic stop was the University of Southern California (USC), where he studied philosophy, specializing in the theory of knowledge. In 1975, after receiving ordination in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he became an associate professor of Apologetics and Ethics at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. While there, he completed his studies at USC, receiving his Ph.D. in 1978.[2]

Later life

One of the original pillars of Christian Reconstruction, Bahnsen was a leading proponent of theonomy, postmillennialism, and presuppositional apologetics. He lectured to a broad range of evangelical Christian groups at many colleges and conferences, not only throughout the United States, but in Scotland and Russia.[3] He published numerous articles and has over 1700 audio tapes, videos, articles, and books to his name.

Greg Bahnsen's vocal advocacy of Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy was highly controversial during his lifetime, and a public disputation pertaining to theonomy led to his dismissal from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.[4] In addition, he was known for his public debates on apologetics, theonomy, religion (such as Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism), and a variety of socio-political issues (such as abortion, gun control, and homosexuality).

Bahnsen is perhaps best known for his debates with such leading atheists as George H. Smith, Gordon Stein, and Edward Tabash. The debate with Stein marked one of the earliest uses of a transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG).

In 1994 a controversy emerged after atheist philosopher Michael Martin was informed just three weeks before a scheduled debate with Bahnsen, "that Bahnsen would not debate unless Martin gave written permission to SCCCS to tape the debate" for resale to support SCCCS. Martin refused, because "he did not want SCCCS to profit from his participation", while SCCCS refused to let Bahnsen debate without the debate being taped. The debate was canceled.[5] Since that time Martin has responded to Bahnsen's use of TAG, doing so in his own debates with Michael Butler, John Frame, and Douglas Jones, and has published his "Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God" in the journal of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, as well as in essays posted on the Secular Web.[6][7]


Due to his lifelong medical problems, Bahnsen had to undergo a third aortic valve implant surgery on December 5, 1995. After the completion of the operation, serious complications developed within twenty-four hours. He then became comatose for several days and died on December 11, 1995 at the age of forty-seven.


See references at Christian Reconstructionism for links to free online versions of some of these (and related) books.

See also


  1. ^ Van Til's Apologetic back cover
  2. ^ a b Bahnsen, Greg (September 2011). Always Ready: Directiond for Defending the Faith. Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press. pp. ix–x. ISBN 0-915815-28-1. 
  3. ^ "The Chalcedon Foundation – Faith for All of Life". Archived from the original on 16 June 2004. 
  4. ^ "Theonomy: What Have We Learned?". 
  5. ^ Lowder, Jeffery Jay (May 1996). "Martin and Stein Respond to SCCCS". Internet Infidels Newsletter. Internet Infidels. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  6. ^ Martin, Michael (2000). "Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God? (1997)". Internet Infidels Library. Internet Infidels. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  7. ^ Martin, Michael (2000). "Does Logic Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God? (2000)". Internet Infidels Library. Internet Infidels. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 

Further reading

External links

  • Essays by Greg Bahnsen and other writers
  • Appointed for the Defense of the Gospel: The Life and Ministry of Greg L. Bahnsen by Kenneth Gentry
  • Bahnsen vs. Stein Audio Debate transcribed
  • "Bahnsen at the Stein Debate" by John Frame
  • Review of The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg L. Bahnsen at the Wayback Machine (archived December 15, 2004) by Steve M. Schlissel
  • Review of Theonomy in Christian Ethics by John Frame
  • Reformed Apologetics includes several articles written by Bahnsen
  • Bahnsen's channel on YouTube
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