We must admit that it has been rare for a presuppositionalist to actually debate an unbeliever. To the extent that it stems from a lack of debating gifts, as I would plead in my own defense , we should pray that God will give us more such gifts. To the extent that we have some hesitations about the debate-genre, we should seek to reform it. I confess that I do have some reservations about that format: it almost requires the opponents to try to tear one another to shreds, rather than speaking the truth in love. But there seems to be no other structure capable of drawing such clear contrasts between two positions, before a live audience.
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Who: Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Dr. If you find any errors or tweaks that should be made please contact us. For the most complete collection of materials by Dr. In subsequent recordings Dr. Bahnsen remarked on various portions of this debate. The section headings and various other organization elements have been added to make the material easier to read.
Thank you David. I want to begin this evening with three opening and introductory remarks about the nature of the debate itself. And for it as a unit or system of thought and not for anything like theism in general. And there are reasons for that, three:. Secondly, I have not found the non-christian religions to be philosophically defensible each of them being internally incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.
And thirdly, since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot from the heart adequately defend those religious faiths with which I disagree. It must be made clear that we are debating about philosophical systems, not the people who adhere to or profess them. Our concern is with the objective merits of the case which can be made for atheism or Christian theism not related, subjective, or personal matters. And again I have three reasons or illustrations of this.
The personalities of those individuals who adhere to different systems of thought are not really relevant to the truth or falsity of the claims made by those systems. Atheists and Christians can equally be found emotional, unlearned, intolerant or rude in their approaches. Thirdly, the issue is not whether atheists or professing Christians have ever done anything undesirable or morally unacceptable.
The question is not whether adherents of these system have lived spotless lives but whether atheism or Christian theism as philosophical systems are objectively true. My last introductory remark is simply to the effect that I want to concede to my opponent all issues pertaining to the control of ovarian maturation in Japanese quail. Okay, the subject of his doctoral dissertation in at Ohio State. I would not pretend to hold my own in a discussion with him of the empirical details of his narrow domain of specialized natural science.
However, our subject tonight is really much different. Calling for intelligent reflection upon issues which are philosophical or theological in character. For some reason Dr. Stein has, over the last decade, left his field of expertise and given his life to a campaign for atheism.
Whatever his perception of the reason for that I do not believe that it is because any genuinely cogent philosophical case which might be made for atheism as a worldview. My opening case for the existence of God will cover three areas of thought.
First of all, the nature of evidence. How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally resolved? What Dr. Stein has written indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote:. End of quote. The assumption that all existences claims are questions about matters of fact… the assumption that these are all answered in the very same way is not merely oversimplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken.
The existence, factuality, or reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case. In such cases, one does not do anything like walking to the pantry and looking inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case. Just think of the difference in argumentation and types of evidence used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, logicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists.
It should be obvious that the types of evidence which one looks for in existence of factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question. Stein has written about the nature of evidence in the theistic debate.
And what he has said points to a second philosophical error of significant proportions. In passing we would note how unclear he is, by the way, in speaking of the evidence which must be used, describing in variously as logic, facts, or reason. I take it he wishes to judge hypothesis in the common sense by test of logical coherence and empirical observation.
The problem arises when Dr. Stein elsewhere insists that every claim that someone makes must be treated as a hypothesis which must be tested by such evidence before accepting it. There is to be nothing, he says, which smacks of begging the question or circular reasoning. This I think is oversimplified thinking and again misleading, what we might call the pretended neutrality fallacy.
One must eventually ask Dr. Stein then how he proves this statement itself. That is, how does he prove that logic or reason is the only way to prove factual statements? He is now on the horns of a real epistemological dilemma. If he says that the statement is proven in some other fashion than he refutes the statement itself, that logic or reason is the only way to prove things.
And my point is not to fault Dr. It is not something he has proven by empirical experience or logic, but it is rather that by which he proceeds to prove everything else.
He is not presuppositionally neutral in his approach to factual questions and disputes. He does not avoid begging crucial questions rather than proving them in what we might call the garden variety ordinary way. Now this tendency to beg crucial questions is openly exposed by Dr. Stein when the issue becomes the existence of God because he demands that the theist present him with evidence for the existence of God.
Now theists like myself will gladly and readily do so. There is the evidence of the created order itself testifying to the wisdom, power, plan and glory of God. One should not miss the testimony of the solar system, the persuasion of the sea, the amazing intricacies of the human body. But Dr. He writes ad I quote:. The theists is hard put to document his claims to the existence of the supernatural if he is in effect forbidden from invoking the supernatural as a part of his explanation.
Of course this is entirely fair as it would be begging the question to use what has to be proved as a part of the explanation.
In advance, you see, Dr. Stein is committed to disallowing any theistic interpretation of nature, history or experience. What he seems to overlook is that this is just as much begging the question on his own part as it is on the part of the theists who appeal to such evidence. He has not at all proven by empirical observation and logic his pre-commitment to naturalism. He has assumed it in advance, accepting and rejecting all further factual claims in terms of that controlling and unproven assumption.
When certain empirical evidence are put forth as allegedly disproving the existence of God the theist regiments his commitments in terms of his presuppositions as well. Just as the naturalist would insist that Christ could not have risen from the dead or that there is a natural explanation yet to be found of how he did rise from the dead, so the supernaturalist insists that the alleged discrepancies in the Bible have an explanation, some yet to be found perhaps, and that the evil of this world has a sufficient reason behind it known at least to God.
They both have their governing presuppositions by which the facts of experience are interpreted even as all philosophical systems, all worldviews, do. Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted and applied. Stein has such presuppositions and so do I and so do all of you. And it is these presuppositions which determine what we accept by ordinary reasoning and evidence for they are assumed in all of our reasoning even about reasoning itself. How then should the difference of opinion between the theists and the atheist be rationally resolved?
That was my opening question. And the reason for that is metaphysically because of the non-natural character of God and epistemologically because of the presuppositional character of commitment for or against his existence. Arguments over conflicting presuppositions between vorldveiws therefore must be resolved somewhat differently and yet still rationally than conflicts over factual existence claims within a worldview or system of thought.
When we go to look at the different worldviews that atheists and theists have, I suggest that we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility the contrary. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes.
And in that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight. Can everybody hear me? I assume so. Well I will grant Dr. Bahnsen his expertise on the conditional resolution on the apparent paradox of self-deception which was his dissertation. But, I would like to also thank Dr. I will try to straighten him out. Now, Dr. Bahnsen repeated for me that the existence of god is a factual question.
I think he misinterpreted what I said when I said that we solve factual questions in the same way. And that is what I am holding. Now, first let me make clear what atheism is and is not. I think this is a very commonly misunderstood subject. They also, an atheist is not someone who denies that there is a god.
My Favorite Debate on the Existence of God: Bahnsen vs. Stein
Greg L. He is also considered a contributor to the field of Christian apologetics, as he popularized the presuppositional method of Cornelius Van Til. Bahnsen , an American portfolio manager, author, and television commentator, as well as his first born, Jonathan Bahnsen, and youngest, Michael Bahnsen. 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.
Bahnsen at the Stein Debate
Who: Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Dr. If you find any errors or tweaks that should be made please contact us. For the most complete collection of materials by Dr. In subsequent recordings Dr. Bahnsen remarked on various portions of this debate.