Letter from Gerard O’Brien

Dear friends,

If you want to learn how to defend the truthfulness of Christianity (what’s known as ‘apologetics’), a treasure trove of recently has recently opened on the Internet. It used to cost thousands of dollars to access Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s lectures and debates. Now they’ve been made available for free here.

My first introduction to Greg Bahnsen was through another American apologist, Dr. James R. White. As a university student, I was considering converting back to the Roman Catholicism of my childhood. I found the claims of Roman Catholic apologists compelling, particularly regarding the history and authority of the Roman Catholic Church. It was listening to White’s debates with Roman Catholic scholars that showed the emptiness of these claims.

White kept referring to how Bahnsen had influenced his approach to apologetics. He recommended that people listen to Bahnsen’s famous 1985 debate with Gordon Stein (Stein was a prominent American atheist in the 80s). When I first listened to it, my mind was completely blown. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. I had heard debates where Christians had argued for the high probability that Jesus rose from the dead, or the preponderance of the evidence pointing to the likelihood of the existence of a god. But here was a man arguing powerfully for the certainty of Christianity. It resonated with how I heard Jesus speak in the Bible: Jesus never threw God’s existence into doubt or spoke tentatively about relating to God; he spoke with clarity and certainty about the existence of his Father. And here was Greg Bahnsen doing the same and showing how the atheist can’t make sense of anything without starting with the Triune God of Scripture. It was a demolition job on the atheist position.

You might know I kept following the river upstream: James White had learned a lot from Greg Bahnsen, who had been a student of Cornelius Van Til, a man who John Frame says ‘is perhaps the most important Christian thinker since Calvin.’ So when I had the opportunity to select a topic for my final-year project at Moore College, I decided to write on Van Til’s theory of knowledge (epistemology). The thing is, despite his brilliance, Van Til can be hard to understand (English was his second language and his writing was densely philosophical). It was Greg Bahnsen that made Van Til accessible to ordinary believers and that is why this new resource is so valuable.

Greg Bahnsen tragically died in 1995 at the age of 47 due to lifelong heart problems. But mercifully there were hundreds of cassette tapes of his lectures and debates. They are cassette tape quality, which means you need to listen a bit more carefully, but they are gold if you persist. I recommend following this link to the various series of resources and starting with his debate with Stein, then listening through his Introduction to Apologetics and then moving on to his Mid Level Apologetics, then picking what you want from there. You will be stretched, challenged and grown in your faith, and in your confidence in the God who is.

In Christ,
Gerard O’Brien