Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

24th Anniversary of the Bahnsen-Stein Debate

Those who are serious students of Christian apologetics are familiar with the classic debate between Christian theologian, Greg Bahnsen, and atheist, Gordon Stein.

Today marks the 24th anniversary of that debate at UC Irvine in California and Answers in Genesis is offering an apologetic web series by the late Greg Bahnsen in honor of it.

New Apologetics Web Series with Greg Bahnsen

The introductory article provides a bit more background to why the debate is still so important for Christian apologetics. His theonomic preterism aside, Bahnsen did much in introducing a generation of Christians to the proper way I believe biblical apologetics should be done.



Blogger Rick Brentlinger said...


Audio of the Bahnsen-Stein debate is available on YouTube.


Rick Brentlinger

11:59 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Chris said...

Theonomic preterism, you say? Why, believing in God's law on earth and that the Scriptures accurately predicted the events of 70 A.D. make him even more brilliant in my mind...No, I wouldn't "leave it aside" as I believe the two make for a more well-rounded Christian worldview...sorry, Fred, I had to comment on that...

1:33 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Two things, Chris:

1) The law could not do anything to save anyone the first time, so why would we force all societies to conform to the ten commandments?

2) Thought there are some preteristic aspects to Matthew 24, a total preteristic (and I am speaking of the Gentry/Demar flavor of preterism) interpretation of the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation is not only grammatically untenable, it is built upon a problematic re-reading of Josephus and other ancient history. (by the way, just like Demar mocks dispensationalist for reading prophecy into current events, he as a preterist does the same thing, but with ancient history).

I have some links to additional articles you can read here.

1:53 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Chris said...


I'll only quibble with your first point. I would say that Theonomists such as Rushdoony would never desire to force God's law upon a society. We desire a regenerated society that begins with individual regeneration. I think this country largely reflected the laws of the Lord up until a few decades ago when the secularists and the sodomites took over.

I'll withhold comment regarding the point of eschatology as I don't want to distract from the focus of your post which is excellent....Greg Bahnsen is sorely missed..

2:19 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger MSC said...

In case you haven't read your American History, the Puritan experiment failed. And it is a good thing too. We would not have wanted to see the kind of persecution here that medieval and even post-Reformation Europe saw when they sought to form pseudo-theocracies. Thank the Lord for Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland who fought religious oppresssion of the Standing Order churches in New England. We have them to thank for religious freedom in our nation long before Jefferson and Madison came along.

8:39 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Mike-e said...

haha, you just had to open that can of worms didn't you:

"Theonomic preterism"

Oh geez, here we go :-O

You just had to bring it up.

For real though, i'm very much looking forward to this Bahnsen series.

5:59 AM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Isaac said...

1) The law could not do anything to save anyone the first time, so why would we force all societies to conform to the ten commandments?

Fred, I hope you appreciate the following statements as being made with the intention of Christian unity and love, and in submission to the truth of God's word.

To your proposition I would say: our obedience to the Law was so important and serious to God that He sent His Son to obey for law, and die on our behalf spotless under the law to redeem us from the curse of the law. If it was so important, why we He save us to live in disobedience?
I agree with the earlier point on theonomy not being about 'forcing' the law so to speak.
An open reading of Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics will be very helpful to clear up misconceptions of the theonomic position.
Bless you,

10:17 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...


So is it your position that the gospel mandate is to not only for bringing men to salvation, but to bring them into submission of an international theocratic kingdom? I would think yes, seeing that this has been the historic position of theonomic postmillennialism.

Isn't the fact that God demanded perfect obedience and men are unable to supply that perfect obedience the whole point of what Christ accomplished on the cross?

As I see it, the law was only meant to be temporary because it reflected attributes that men could not keep. So how exactly does insisting that our world live according to a law that could not save to begin with a good thing?

Christ doesn't save us to live in disobedience, but to live in obedience to a change heart that reflects the law of Christ, not those that governed an OT theocracy for only a short while.

12:55 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Isaac said...

Well, I think that’s the wrong way of expressing it. It is my position that the gospel mandate is to bring men to salvation and ultimately restore all things under the Lordship of Christ (including the sphere of politics).
I don’t think that your statement on an ‘international theocratic kingdom’ is a fair or complete expression of theonomy or postmillennialism – which are not necessarily inclusive.

Absolutely agree with your comment on Christ’s work on the cross regarding our inability to obey. However, to then discard the law as temporary I think is error. Right is right – as established by God. He is unchanging, and His law is a divine expression of creaturely holiness. If we’re not using His standard to discern what is right in all of life (and obey out of a pure heart), what are we using?

Christ Himself expressed the importance of the law (Matt 5 v 17-18), and John defined love itself as obedience to God’s law (1 John 5 v 3).

Your statement on the obedience of a changed heart is right in principle, but lacking in distinction (to my eyes). My question to you is what exactly does it mean to obey a changed heart? What is the law of Christ? I don’t trust my own heart, changed through the work of the Holy Spirit though it is. It’s all a bit hazy. To me the changed heart is excellently illustrated as the one that sings the song of Psalm 119. We see the holiness of God’s ways (His law – which is inclusive of, but arguably broader, than the Mosaic legal system – the entire Word of God), and have a distinct pattern revealed to us on which to think God’s thoughts after Him, and on which to understand the way all of life should be.

The OT Mosaic laws are still holy and just and good, not just some set of stale laws. God does not change, and what constitutes righteousness (which was expressed in the law) does not change as it is an expression of God’s holiness. The law is a foreshadow of Christ Himself. We should not presume any of it to be abrogated/done away with (which Christ said they are not) except inasmuch as God Himself qualifies our understanding of them in the new covenant. Salvation by works? Not on your life. But we are still God’s people, and He has saved us to obedience to His ways in all things.

“So how exactly does insisting that our world live according to a law that could not save to begin with a good thing?” Naturally, the law only brings death outside of Christ (which is I think the position you are positing here – and which I, a theonomist, wholeheartedly agree with). True obedience is centered in Him – the redemption of souls through the preaching of the gospel must come before cultural and social change. Even so, given that God has established what is right, and what is wrong, I prefer even a non-Christian society to be as close to that goal as possible.

Think earnestly my friend, I was where you are not so very long ago (and perhaps would have been even more hostile to my position than you are). Ask the Lord to show you what it fully means to obey Him, to think His thoughts after Him, to live in holiness, and to preach the gospel in fullness. Redemption and transformed lives of obedience to God – only in Christ who is our life.

Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the law, and we are to imitate Christ – what then should our lives look like?

May God bless you richly.

11:33 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I appreciate your challenges and think they are worthy of a larger audience. Give me a few days to get caught up on some other stuff here at work and home so I can devote some attention to your comments. It has been a while since I have immersed myself in the study of OT/NT discontinuity and continuity issues. I would like to direct my readers to our exchange for their benefit, too.


5:59 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Isaac said...

No worries Fred - I look forward to further posts!
Bless you,

1:57 AM, March 10, 2010  

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