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Greg L. Bahnsen
Born:  September 17, 1948
Place of birth:  Auburn, Washington
Died:  December 11, 1995
Denomination(s):  Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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Greg L. Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an influential Calvinist 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.


Early life and education

He was the first born of two sons of Robert and Virginia Bahnsen in Auburn, Washington, and grew up in Pico Rivera, California. 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.

Raised in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he actively participated in religious activities. He first began reading the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til when in high school, and his absorption of these works influenced his later career. While attending Westmont College he began writing for the Chalcedon Foundation of Rousas J. Rushdoony and soon came to admire the latter's strong Calvinistic convictions.

In 1969 Bahnsen married Cathie Wade. The two went on to have three sons of their own as well as an adopted Korean daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1990.

In 1970 Bahnsen graduated magna cum laude from Westmont College, receiving his B.A. in philosophy as well as the John Bunyan Smith Award for his overall grade point average. From there he went on to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied under Van Til. The two became close friends. When he graduated in May 1973, he simultaneously received two degrees, Master of Divinity and Master of Theology, as well as the William Benton Greene Prize in apologetics and a Richard Weaver Fellowship from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. His next academic stop was the University of Southern California (USC), where he studied philosophy, specializing in the theory of knowledge. In 1975, after receiving ordination in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he became an associate professor of Apologetics and Ethics at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. While there, he completed his studies at USC, receiving his Ph.D. in 1978.

Later life

One of the original pillars of Christian Reconstruction, Bahnsen was a leading proponent of theonomy, postmillennialism, and presuppositional apologetics. He lectured to a broad range of evangelical Christian groups at many colleges and conferences, not only throughout the United States, but in Scotland and Russia.[1] He published numerous articles and has over 1700 audio tapes, videos, articles, and books to his name.

Greg Bahnsen's vocal advocacy of Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy was highly controversial during his lifetime, and a public disputation pertaining to theonomy led to his dismissal from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.

In addition, he was known for his public debates on apologetics, theonomy, religion (such as Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism), and a variety of socio-political issues (such as gun control and homosexuality). He is perhaps best known for his debates with such leading atheists as George H. Smith, Gordon Stein, and Edward Tabash. The debate with Stein marked one of the earliest uses of a transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG), which Stein later conceded he had been unprepared for but to which he subsequently developed a reply.[2]

Bahnsen was once described as "the man atheists fear most"[citation needed] because of the controversy surrounding the Bahnsen-Martin debate, which was canceled by Michael Martin, who explained, "I refused to allow the debate to be taped and sold to support a Christian organization."[2][3] Atheists maintain that Martin has since adequately responded to Bahnsen's use of TAG in that debate, doing so in his own debates with Michael Butler, John Frame, and Douglas Jones as well as in papers posted on the Secular Web.[4][5]

Bahnsen was known to his friends for his personal side. Douglas Jones wrote in Credenda/Agenda magazine following Bahnsen’s death: "some of us also remember him for his love of adventure movies, his fondness for Chinese food, his love of laughter, his lightning fast typing skills, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of rock and roll. No one could even come close to beating him on the details of rock history."[6]

Due to his lifelong medical problems, Bahnsen had to undergo a third aortic valve implant surgery on December 5, 1995. After the completion of the operation, serious complications developed within twenty-four hours. He then became comatose for several days and died on December 11, 1995 at the age of forty-seven.

Books authored

See references at Christian Reconstructionism for links to free online versions of some of these (and related) books.
  • Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (ISBN 0-915815-28-1)
  • Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (ISBN 0-87552-098-7)
  • Theonomy in Christian Ethics (ISBN 0-9678317-3-3)
  • By This Standard: The Authority Of God's Law Today (ISBN 0-930464-06-0; Available online for free.)
  • No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (ISBN 0-930464-56-7; Available online for free)
  • House Divided: The Breakup of Dispensational Theology with Kenneth Gentry. (ISBN 0-930464-27-3; Available online for free)
  • Homosexuality: A Biblical View (ISBN 0-8010-0744-5)
  • Five Views on Law and Gospel (Chapter contribution) (ISBN 0-310-21271-5)
  • Foundations of Christian Scholarship (2 Chapter Contributions) (ISBN 1-879998-25-4)
  • God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government (Chapter contribution) (ISBN 0-87552-448-6)
  • Theonomy: An Informed Response (2 Chapter contributions) (ISBN 0-930464-59-1)
  • Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism (ISBN 0-9678317-1-7)
  • Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended (Edited by Joel McDurmon.) (ISBN 0-915815-55-9)

Books about

  • The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg L. Bahnsen (ISBN 0-9678317-4-1)


External links


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