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What Was Once Lost is Now Found: Greg Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Apologetics

February 4, 2010

I just received in the mail today Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended by Greg Bahnsen.  This work gives a historical and theological defense of presuppositional apologetics from a student and advocate of Van Til.  Interestingly, this posthumous publication has an interesting story behind it.  It was never published in Bahnsen’s lifetime because it was lost.  Below is a portion of the preface to the book that explains how it was lost and then found:

Over time he continued adding and revising, and at some point had the work typeset as a preliminary step for publication. When he received the “galley proofs” (20”-long typeset pages used for author’s review and editing), Greg continued revising towards what clearly promised to be his magnum opus—a work which contained a clear and thorough positive statement of the presuppositional method as well as a comparison of that method against other allegedly “presuppositional” systems and a defense against other non-presuppositional critics and rivals.

At this point, the most unexpected—and unfortunate—turn of events occurred. For some reason, unknown to everyone close to Bahnsen, the galleys were lost. Lost, as in disappeared. I can only imagine, in view of Bahnsen’s voluminous and varied output during this time (he taught seminary until 1979, pastored a church and Christian school after that, wrote articles and lessons for various media, generated hundreds of audio tapes, and regularly typed out twenty-page, single-spaced letters to critics and inquirers alike, among other things, plus a draining embroilment in controversy at Reformed Theological Seminary), that the magnum opus which took so much valuable time, yet had little direct financial support, gave way to his various other duties necessary to pay the bills.

Whatever happened (and my speculation may not come even remotely close), the galleys vanished into the mists of a life in transition and remained lost until Bahnsen’s untimely passing in 1995.  Only by the amazing grace of God did that which was lost get found. After Bahnsen’s death—about sixteen years after his masterpiece-in-progress disappeared—the effort of cleaning out his offices solved the great mystery. The long-lost galleys and attendant materials—which Greg had apparently sealed in an envelope and mailed to his California office from Jackson, MS—had fallen behind one of thirty filing cabinets bulging with Bahnsen’s written, received, and clipped materials. Dusting off the cobwebs and inspecting the envelope, Covenant Media Foundation director Randy Booth conferred with Bahnsen’s mother, who helped discern the date of the package from the old address written on it. Having long-since heard rumors that Bahnsen had begun this work around the time she mentioned, Randy put two and two together to get four hundred—over four hundred pages that is, once we would convert the galleys into standard pages

Having the physical evidence that the publication began, Randy called the original publisher to inquire about the printing plates (essential for continuing the process!). Unfortunately, the original printer had long since destroyed them. Bahnsen had delayed so long, and further circumstances had extenuated that delay, the printer could no longer wait—he could not keep the valuable resources and materials tied up with an old lagging project when other orders demanded them. So the old plates no longer existed. In the absence of vital resources, the project remained filed away.

Less than a year ago the project arose as a subject of interest at American Vision. Hearing that Covenant Media had something of a “manuscript” unpublished, we began to talk. Upon receiving the galleys for our review, we realized that even though the printer destroyed the original plates, the advance of technology made it possible to convert the text to a digital format. After a quick scanning and conversion effort, I personally spent half of a week pouring over the text correcting scanning errors and other minor problems. Then I began the task of incorporating Bahnsen’s hand-written edits into the text from the scanned proofs—revising words, deleting sections, and inserting “new” materials he had prepared in manuscript. After this tedious work, we finally got the text into a modern typesetting program and began final editing.  I am so thankful and proud merely to be included in resurrecting this impressive work. Why our Lord delayed it and preserved it until now for publication He alone knows; but what was lost for thirty years, now is found. To help bring the clearest, most rigorous statement and defense of presuppositional apologetics—from perhaps Van Til’s most gifted disciple—brings American Vision and Covenant Media Foundation a great joy and sense of fulfillment.

Read the whole preface and Chapter 1 here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 7:01 am

    You should write a review of it once you are done! I still have it on my shelf…been busy with other books at the moment.

  2. John Starke permalink*
    February 8, 2010 11:44 am

    Well, while I plan to read it. It is on the bottom of a pretty hefty “to read” pile. I probably will not get to it this summer. Though I was not made aware of this book until pretty recently.

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