I thought that Bahnsen thoroughly won this debate, and that Sproul didn't even seem to fully understand PA in relation to the nature of ultimate standards. The things that Sproul said about the nature of certainty didn't make sense to me. He seemed to be saying that we need to build up the case for Christ using evidence and that this can bring us to high degree of probability about the truth of Scripture, but that certainty in a philosophical sense is not possible.
To quote Sproul, "I am not a skeptic with respect to meaningful knowledge and meaningful discourse.
I am a skeptic with respect to the technical concept of absolute philosophical certainty." (1:53:04 ~)
The second sentence above undermines the first sentence and effectively digs a hole for his position. How can he know for certain that he can have meaningful knowledge if he rejects the concept of certain knowledge?
To me it also struck me that Sproul only referred to Scripture on several occasions and even then he was only making general references rather than actually quoting passages. (He referred to Romans 1 twice and once alluded to Genesis 3 in relation to Eve and Satan).
In comparison Bahnsen quoted directly from at least 20 different Bible verses. Of course, this in itself doesn't prove anything - but to me it does reflect that Bahnsen and PA are rooted and grounded thoroughly in Scripture.
Bahnsen - The Certainty of Biblical Faith
Bahnsen spent a significant amount of time discussing the certainty of biblical faith.
(24 min ~ 26 min)
1. Apologetics is not merely persuasion
2. Apologetics is not merely dealing with probabilities
- 1 Peter 3:15 We are to have a reasoned defense of the conviction / the hope that is within us.
- We can know assuredly (know without any doubt whatsoever) that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. - Acts 2:36 "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (ESV)
- The gospel comes to us that we may "know the certainty" of our Christian teaching -
Luke 1:4 "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."
- 1 Thessalonians 1:5 "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." (KJV) - Much / Full assurance (πληροφορίᾳ (plērophoria) = full conviction - assurance - certainty - perfect faith not marred by any doubts whatsoever.
- Colossians 2:2 full assurance of understanding - "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ," (ESV)
- Hebrews 6:11 "And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,"
- Romans 4:19 "He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb." (ESV)
- Romans 4:21 "fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." (ESV)
- Hebrews 10:22-23 "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (ESV)
- We can have bold access and confident faith - Ephesians 3:12 "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." (ESV)
- The confidence of the godless is like a spider's web - Job 8:14 "His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web." (ESV)
- Proverbs 14:26 "In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." (ESV)
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge - Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
- Proverbs 22:20-21 “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, that I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?” (NKJV)
- 1 John - written that readers might have confident knowledge of their salvation
- “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20)
- "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceits." (Proverbs 26:4-5)
- "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2) (All knowledge - not just knowledge related to spiritual things)
- “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
- "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3)
- "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15)
Review / The Impossibility of the Contrary
This video is an interesting review of the debate, although I don't agree with everything that this person says. He points out that when Bahnsen was asked how he knows the Bible is true he said "from the impossibility of the contrary." Bahnsen then goes on to explain this by using the analogy of logic - if you try to prove logic exists you get into circularity where you must use logic to prove that logic exists. The only way to prove that logic exists is by arguing from the impossibility of the contrary - if you abandon it you can't make sense of anything. Likewise PA proves God exists by arguing from the impossibility of the contrary. (See my blog Circular Reasoning?).
Critique of Sproul's Book "Classical Apologetics"
Here's an interesting article by Bahnsen that is also relevant. In the article Bahnsen responds to the book Classical Apologetics, by R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. Bahnsen basically says the book is poorly written and attacking a strawman. Here's a quote from the article that sums things up well:
"We rejoice that Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley stand with us in worshiping the Triune God. Their effort to defend our common faith means well. But apologetics cannot be evaluated simply like an awkward Christmas gift received from a child. It is not simply "the thought that counts" here. The stakes are simply too high. College students cannot expect to respond to skeptical challenges with the kind of thinking found in this book and not suffer intellectual embarrassment. The argumentation is too easy to discredit, totally apart from personal antipathy to Christianity."
For Further Reading / Research:
- The Biblical Basis for Presuppositional Apologetics.
- Sye / Matt Debate - Why are Both Sides Claiming Victory?.
- Dr Greg Bahnsen (Christian PhD Philosopher).
- Why I'm Not an Evidentialist: A Response to J Warner Wallace.
- Stars? What Stars? (The Presuppositional Difference Between Mediate and Immediate Thinking) | theidolbabbler's Blog.
- Evaluating RC Sproul's Objection to Presuppositional Apologetics.