Question of the week: What are your thoughts about the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen?
My answer: Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen are two of the better-known proponents of presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics presupposes that the Bible is a divinely inspired and inerrant revelation and, hence, presupposes a biblical worldview. The apologetics thrust of biblical presuppositionalism is to show the consistency of a biblical worldview while exposing the flaws in competing worldviews.
I think both Van Til and Bahnsen very well crafted the case for using presuppositional apologetics. Another very good presuppositional apologist I would add to the list is Francis Schaeffer. I don’t think Van Til, nor Bahnsen, nor Schaeffer were against evidential apologetics, as many of their followers have presumed. Good apologetics should include both. Presuppositional apologetics is effective at demonstrating what is not consistent and what is not true. Evidential apologetics is effective in establishing what is consistent and what is true. Most unbelievers need to be exposed to both kinds of apologetics in order to come to faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
In the book Five Views on Apologetics (2000), five theologians, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Paul Feinberg, Kelly James Clark, and John Frame debated one another on which of five different modes of apologetics is the most effective. The five apologetics methods they defended and debated were the classical (Craig), evidential (Habermas), presuppositional (Frame), Reformed epistemology (Clark), and cumulative case apologetics (Feinberg) methods. I am often asked which of these five methods I espouse and the reasons why I think the other four methods are less effective. My answer is that Christians need to be equipped to use all five methods and that the methods one chooses to employ depend upon the person with whom one is sharing their faith. Every non-Christian is different from every other non-Christian.
I believe it is always wise to ask enough questions of an unbeliever to determine which one or combination of apologetics methods will be most helpful in assisting the non-Christian into becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. The reason why I focus so much of my ministry at Reasons to Believe on evidential apologetics is because the non-Christians I most frequently engage need evidence, especially new evidences, in order to believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and that Jesus Christ is Creator, Lord, and Savior.