The Impossibility of the Contrary: Without God You Can’t Prove Anything

The Impossibility of the Contrary: Without God You Can’t Prove Anything

The Impossibility of the Contrary: Without God You Can’t Prove Anything

Book by Greg Bahnsen

Publisher: The American Vision

The Impossibility of the Contrary, Volume Two of the Bahnsen Apologetic Trilogy

Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Biographical Sketch:

“Greg L. Bahnsen was an influential Calvinist Christian philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies. Bahnsen graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary where he simultaneously received the Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees. He later received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. He is the author of Always Ready, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, and innumerable essays and articles.”

What others are saying about Greg Bahnsen’s apologetic work:

Therefore, in light of the fact that Dr. Bahnsen passed almost twenty years ago, some of the younger readers may not understand the intellectual impact that he made. It would be apropos to list a few thoughts that others are saying about Bahnsen’s theological, philosophical, and apologetic work.

“Bahnsen does a masterful job of systematizing the central themes in Van Tils thought and follows them with carefully selected passages from Van Tils books, essays, syllabuses, articles, lectures and so on.” – Anthony B. Bradley Presbyterion

“It is most welcome…to have this massive volume of readings and analysis of [Van Tils] publications by his former student and a first-rate thinker in his own right…. This book will be of great benefit to mature theological students who wish to engage secular and other pagan ideologies in contemporary society.” – E. Earle Ellis Southwestern Journal of Theology

“This is the late Dr. Bahnsen’s testament to today’s defenders of the truth. It is an encyclopedic synthesis of the thought of Cornelius Van Til, who was arguably the most original apologist of the twentieth century. In the grand tradition of the Sentences of the fathers, this study will be a standard for years to come.” – William Edgar

“Greg Bahnsen’s book on Van Til has been eagerly awaited. It is certainly Bahnsen’s best and most important book, and it is an invaluable guide to Van Til’s thought. I disagree with Bahnsen on some matters, but I would never want to be without this resource. It is a virtually encyclopedic exposition of what Van Til said, with many helps to interpretation. You must have this book if you are serious about trying to understand Van Til’s thought.” – John M. Frame

“Greg Bahnsen was a brilliant scholar. But this is an inadequate description of what he had to offer the church. The value of his work was not merely academic (though it was that also); it was intensely practical. His ability to analyze the “logic” of unbelief and demonstrate its foolishness, and set forth the gospel as the only intellectually honest alternative, was unsurpassed. When it came to apologetics, Greg was in a class all of his own.” – Stephen C. Perks, Director, Foundation of Christian Reconstruction

“For those who want to understand Van Til, whether to agree or disagree, at least two things are both essential and too often neglected. The first to read Van Til, the second is to read Greg Bahnsen.” – Dr. Scott Oliphant, Assistant Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

“Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) provided perhaps the clearest, most faithful, and most powerful advancement of Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics of anyone. This statement holds true both for Bahnsen’s written scholarly work as well as his practical applications in both formal and informal debates and exchanges. Those knowledgeable of Van Til’s “Copernican Revolution” in Christian apologetic method will understand the enormity of this compliment to Greg Bahnsen. Those not formerly introduced to Van Til or Bahnsen will understand shortly after beginning this volume—for this book presents the most clear, systematic, and rigorous statement and defense of Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics written to date (vii).” – Joel McDurmon, Reviewing Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

Who was Cornelius Van Til, since his name comes up in so many comments about Bahnsen?

Cornelius Van Til Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987), born in The Netherlands, was a Christian philosopher, Reformed theologian, and presuppositional apologist. Influenced: Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Francis Schaeffer, R. J. Rushdoony, Richard L. Pratt Jr.

Van Til was influenced by: Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield.

A Review:

Chapter lineup:

1.      Answering Fools According to Their Folly – 1

2.      Prejudicial Conjecture and Philosophical Baggage – 17

3.      Inconsistent and Fallacious Arguments – 35

4.      Unbelief and Its Consequences – 57

5.      The Preconditions of Intelligibility – 74

6.      Proof and Persuasion -87

7.      The Evolutionary Worldview – 107

8.      The Problem of Evil – 127

9.      Circular Reasoning – 168   

Questions for non-believers of any persuasion:

·         Are they being arbitrary?

·         Are there inconsistencies in what they are saying?

·         What are the consequences of their arguments?

·         What are the preconditions of intelligibility?

Dr. Bahnsen provides numerous examples in real-world interactions with non-believers of every stripe and color and how to use these questions, and how to adapt them to different situations.

One of the many highlights of this book is the Transcendental Proof of God’s Existence:  

“A transcendental proof argues from the impossibility the contrary, saying, ‘You have an ultimate presupposition. I have an ultimate presupposition. And the problem with yours is that if what you are saying is true, we can’t prove anything. Nothing would be intelligible, nothing would make sense on your presupposition.’”  (pp.97-98)   

A presupposition can be understood as a starting axion or a grid or glasses of one’s worldview in the reasoning process. Reasoning includes how one interprets evidence within a worldview.      

In this work, Dr. Bahnsen interacts with the atheistic philosophers Anthony Flew and Bertrand Russell in this book and destroys their arguments. As an aside, Anthony Flew was probably the top British atheistic philosopher. A number of years after Greg Bahnsen passed, Anthony Flew rejected atheism.  

Dr. Bahnsen shows how only the Christian worldview provides the necessary preconditions of intelligibility, such as the laws of logic that are abstract and universal entities, and how the atheistic worldview rejects these and, as a consequence, the possibility of logic, and therefore, any kind of meaningful debate. (p. 98)                       

The transcendental argument stated by Bahnsen:

“1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).”

“2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities, which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.”

“3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn’t, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.”

Conclusion:

“The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality.” – Greg Bahnsen

The book under review does not require a college degree to understand. There is a helpful glossary of terms for each chapter. For the average layman, this book is well within their grasp.

In closing:

Against All Opposition: Defending the Christian Worldview, Volume One of the Bahnsen Apologetic Trilogy

The Impossibility of the Contrary, Volume Two of the Bahnsen Apologetic Trilogy

Pushing the Antithesis,

Volume Three of the Bahnsen Apologetic Trilogy

If the reader buys all 3 volumes, there is a special price break at https://store.americanvision.org/products/the-impossibility-of-the-contrary

This trilogy of books should be in every church library, and everyone interested in apologetics should have them in a prominent place in their home library.   

End of review

If the reader interested in apologetics has not heard the “Great Debate” between Bahnsen and Stein, there is no accuse not listening several times to soak it all in. 

“When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.” – Greg Bahnsen from “The Great Debate”

The Great Debate: Christian philosopher Greg Bahnsen debates atheist Gordon Stein at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDHkheBeTRE

Scroll down for a special section of Greg Bahnsen quotes.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.

Bahnsen Quotes:

“Without faith, there is no proper understanding by which a man can judge. As Augustine well said, ‘I believe in order to understand’.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“There is no way to use non-Christian language and logic to arrive at Christian utterances, conclusions, and behavior.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“We must not be satisfied to present Christianity as the most reliable position to hold among the competing options available. Rather, the Christian faith is the only reasonable outlook available to men.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“Christianity is reasonable in virtue of the impossibility of the contrary.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“Paul sets forth the attitude to which the defender of the faith must be committed: “Let God be found true, but every man a liar.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“When an apologist attempts to be autonomous in his reasoned argumentation he indicates that he considers God to be less certain than his own existence and that he places greater credence in his independent reasoning than in God’s Word.” ― Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“By reversing the proper order of things, the non-presuppositional apologist sees submission to God’s Word as secondary, rather than primary, sees demonstration as the basis for faith, sees independent argumentation rather than the Holy Spirit as the source of conviction, and therefore advances the destruction of his own defense of the faith.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“To reject revelational epistemology is to commit yourself to defending the truth of autonomous epistemology.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“Non-presuppositional defenses of the faith tend to be too concessive to the unbeliever’s aim and aim to simply show Christianity as probably true. They do not leave the unbeliever ‘without excuse,’ but suggest implicitly that he has the prerogative and ability to stand in judgement over God’s own Word.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

 “Since the fall of man was ethical in character (not metaphysical) the unregenerate and regenerate share the facts of the world and the rules of thought, but their interpretation and use of them are far from neutral.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“There are no facts or uses of reason which are available outside of the interpretive system. The argument must pit the unbeliever’s system of thought as a unit against the believer’s system of thought as a unit. Their overall perspectives will have to contend with each other.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended

“There is no man made in the image of God and living in God’s world, whatever God’s attitude toward him and his own feelings about Christ, who does not know the living and true God, his Creator. All men have the requisite knowledge of God to make them eternally responsible before Him; this was true in the Garden, and it does not cease to be true after the fall. Sin or no sin, special revelation or no special revelation, all men inescapably know their God.” – Greg L. Bahnsen Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated & Defended

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