Greg L. Bahnsen

Apocalypse – MethodsHermeneutics in the Book of Revelation (1984) “The churches, in the midst of inner trials and outward tribulation, are called upon to be victorious in the strength of the exalted Messiah (chapters 1-3). The intense persecution of believers by apostate Judaism, centered in the city of Jerusalem, will be answered with divine retribution as Rome destroys Jerusalem (chapters 4-11). The savage persecution of the church by the Roman Empire will, in turn, meet the same divine vengeance in the overthrow of Rome herself (chapters 13-18). With these obstacles removed the church’s great commission of disciplining the nations will experience tremendous prosperity (chapter 19). These various triumphs for Christ’s kingdom can only be accounted for in terms of Satan’s being cast down (chapter 12) and bound (chapter 20), with the result that the nations are no longer under the grip of his deception, but instead the faithful saints exercise (along with their Lord) rule over the nations. Even the final outbreak of rebellion against Christ will be crushed, as the precursor to the consummation of the kingdom and its eternal enjoyment by God’s people (chapters 20-22).”

(On Prophecy)
When shall the saints be raptured from earth to meet their Lord? When shall believers be “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” ever to be with Him (I Thess. 4:17)? The passage just cited makes it clear that the rapture coincides with (1) the resurrection of the saints (vv. 1316, and “together with them” in v. 17), and (2) the coming of the Lord from heaven (v. 16). Scripture elsewhere clarifies when these two events shall occur.

First, the resurrection of the saints will occur at the coming of Christ, which itself brings the end (I Cor. 15:23-24). Christ declares that he will raise us again on the last day (John 6:39-404454). Moreover, the saints and the wicked shall exist together on earth until the “harvest” day of God’s judgment on the “tares” (Matt. 13:24-30); the redeemed and the wicked will not be separated from each other until the end of the age (Matt. 13:47-50). Therefore, the resurrection of the saints must coincide with the resurrection of the wicked (one following closely upon the other); when the believers come forth unto the resurrection of life, at that time all in the tombs will as well come forth, including the wicked who are raised to judgment (John 5:26-29). We see, then, that there is no significant gap between the rapture of the saints, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the resurrection and judgment of the wicked, and the end of the age.

Secondly, the coming of the Lord mentioned in I Thes. 4:16 is also called the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” when the saints shall be found unreprovable; this day coincides with the end (I Cor. 1:7-8). Moreover, the coming of the Lord mentioned in I Thess. 4:16 will bring the glorification of the saints (cf. Rom. 8:1723;I Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:21I John 3:2). Paul brings together the return of Christ and the glorification of the saints in 2 Thes. 1:710; he there makes it quite clear that these two events will be accompanied by the judgment of the wicked. This confirms what we read elsewhere, to wit, that when Christ establishes his bar of eternal judgment, all mankind including both the sheep and the goats (i.e., the redeemed and the reprobate) will be judged (Matt. 25:31-344146). We see, then, that there is no significant gap between the rapture of the saints, the coming of the Lord, the glorification of the saints, the general judgment of mankind (including the wicked), and the end of the age.” (Rapture and Resurrection)

(On Postmillennialism)
“Postmillennialism has not only been discarded in this century on clearly unorthodox grounds; it has also been made a straw man so that modern advocates of the other schools of interpretation can easily knock it down and get on to other interests. The worst possible interpretation is put on postmillennial tenets, or the eccentric aspect of some postmillennial writer’s position is set forth as representing the basic school of thought. As instances of these procedures we can note the following. Hal Lindsey says that postmillennialists believe in the inherent goodness of man, and Walvoord says that the position could not resist the trend toward liberalism. He also accuses it of not seeing the kingdom as consummated by the Second Advent. William E. Cox claims that postmillennialism is characterized by a literal interpretation of Revelation 20.  Adams portrays the postmillennialist as unable to conceive of the millennium as coextensive with the church age or as a present reality, for he (according to Adams) must see it as exclusively future – a golden age just around the corner. Finally, it is popularly thought and taught that postmillennialism maintains that there is an unbroken progression toward righteousness in history – that the world is perceptibly getting better and better all the time – until a utopian age is reached. Geerhardus Vos portrays the postmillennialist as looking for “ideal perfection” when “every individual” will be converted, and some will become “sinless individuals.”

All of the above claims are simply inaccurate. The Calvinist, Loraine Boettner, certainly does not believe in man’s inherent goodness, and B. B. Warfield can hardly be accused of not resisting liberalism. That a. A. Hodge did not see the second coming of Christ as the great day of consummation is preposterous. J. Marcellus Kik and many others insisted on a figurative interpretation of Revelation 20. Certain sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch theologians, as well as Jonathan Edwards and E. W. Hengstenberg, were all postmillennialists who saw the millennium as coeval with the interadventual age (in which there would be progressive growth for the church in numbers and influence). Charles Hodge, Snowden, and Boettner were all postmillennialists who explained that the growth of Christ’s kingdom in the world suffers periodic crises, and Boetner has especially stressed the fact that it grows by imperceptible degrees over a long period. Finally, anyone who thinks of postmillennialism as a utopian position misunderstands one or the other in their historically essential principles. Indeed, a chapter in Boettner’s book, The Millennium, is entitled, “The Millennium not a Perfect or Sinless State,” contrary to the misrepresentations of Vos. Nobody has ever propounded, in the name of evangelical postmillennialism, what Vos claimed (least of all his Princeton colleagues or predecessors). Therefore, the recent opponents of postmillennialism have not been fair to its genuine distinctives, but rather have misrepresented it as a general category of interpretation. This surely provides no firm ground for rejecting the position.” (The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism)

(On Preterist History)
A partial list of scholars who have supported the early date for Revelation, gleaned unsystematically from my reading, would include the following 18th and 19th writers not already mentioned just above: John Lightfoot, Harenbert, Hartwig, Michaelis, Tholuck, Clarke, Bishop Newton, James MacDonald, Gieseler, Tilloch, Bause, Zullig, Swegler, De Wett, Lucke, Bohmer, Hilgenfeld, Mommsen, Ewald, Neander, Volkmar, Renan, Credner, Kernkel, B. Weiss, Reuss, Thiersch, Bunsen, Stier, Auberlen, Maurice, Niermeyer, Desprez, Aube, Keim, De Pressence, Cowles, Scholten, Beck, Dusterdiek, Simcox, S. Davidson, Beyschlag, Salmon, Hausrath. Continuing on into the 20th century we could list Plummer, Selwyn, J.V. Bartlet, C.A. Scott, Erbes, Edmundson, Henderson, and others. If one’s reading has been limited pretty much to the present and immediately preceding generations of writers on Revelation, then the foregoing names may be somewhat unfamiliar to him, but they were not unrecognized in previous eras. When we combine these names with the yet outstanding stature of Schaff, Terry, Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort, we can feel the severity of Beckwith’s understatement when in 1919 he described the Neronian dating for Revelation as “a view held by many down to recent times.”  By many indeed! It has been described, as we saw above, as “the ruling view” of critics,” by “the majority of modern critics,” by “most modern scholars,” and by “the whole force of modern criticism.” The weight of scholarship placed behind the Neronian option for the dating of Revelation has been staggering. In our own day it has gained the support of such worthies as C.C. Torrey, J.A.T. Robinson, and F.F. Bruce and has been popularized by Jay Adams.  In 1956 Torrey could write about the number 666, “It is now the accepted conclusion that the beast is the emperor Nero.”” (Historical Setting for the Dating of Revelation)


Robert L. Thomas
“Recently R. C. Sproul has adopted a view that Greg Bahnsen held before his death, namely, that most of Jesus’ predictions about his future coming referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the events leading up to it. The position understands the ‘soon’ of Revelation 1:1 in light of Matthew 24:34 where Jesus promised, ‘This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”—Robert L. Thomas, “The Place of Imminence in Recent Eschatological Systems,” pp. 201-202, in Looking into the Future: Evangelical Studies in Eschatology, Edited by David W. Baker. Baker Academic, 2001.


Greg L. Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an influential Christian 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 — a fact that came to light only during his first college admissions medical exam.

Raised in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he actively participated in religious activities, never deviating from the faith. 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 after his wife left him for a former church member, named David Arnold.

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 and 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

See also: List of people and organizations associated with Dominionism
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 the British Isles and Russia. 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. In the debate with Stein, Bahnsen used the 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.

Bahnsen was once described as “the man atheists fear most”[1] because of the controversy surrounding the Bahnsen-Martin debate, which was cancelled 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 planned 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], but Reformed apologists say an adequate rebuttal has not been achieved.[6]

Bahnsen was known to his friends for his personal side. Douglas Jones wrote in Vol. 8, No. 1 of Credenda/Agenda magazine following Bahnsen’s death that “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.”

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

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)

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

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