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No Other Standard: Theonomy And Its Critics
by Greg L. Bahnsen
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This is Greg Bahnsen's response to criticisms of the theonomic position that have been published or circulated over the last ten years. Bahnsen deals not only with Westminster Theological Seminary's Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, but also with two other brief critical books against him, and with various published articles and typewritten, photocopied responses. One by one, Bahnsen takes his critics' arguments apart, showing that they have either misrepresented his position or misrepresented the Bible. Line by line, point by point, he shows that they have not understood his arguments and have also not understood the vulnerability of their own logical and theological positions.
From the Back Cover
"THEY CAN RUN, BUT THEY CAN'T HIDE"
In 1959, Rousas John Rushdoony's first book appeared, By What Standard?, a study of the philosophy of Cornelius Van Til. Van Til made it clear that the truth of the Bible must be man's presupposition, the standard of his reasoning, and the final court of appeal in history. He rejected natural law philosophy in any form. Rushdoony believed Van Til, so he wrote Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) to demonstrate that the only standard that God provides is biblical law.
That same year, 1973, Van Til's student Greg L. Bahnsen completed his Th.M. degree at Westminster seminary, submitting a thesis on "The Theonomic Responsibility of the Civil Magistrate." After a delay of four years, an expanded version of his thesis appeared, Theonomy in Christian Ethics. This book was an apologetic for biblical law. So was his subsequent introductory book, By This Standard (1985).
Theonomy in Christian Ethics received only sporadic opposition in print but continual and growing opposition within the faculty at Westminster Seminary. In fact, Bahnsen's book can be said to have split the faculty into three camps: (1) the "natural law in spite of Van Til's philosophy" camp, (2) the "not natural law, but we're not sure what to substitute" camp; and (3) the "Proverbs 12:23" camp. The first group retains the upper hand. The faculty (past and present) published an attempted refutation of Bahnsen in 1990: Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, which led within a few months to responses by the theonomists: Westminster's Confession, by Gary North; Theonomy: An Informed Response, edited by Gary North; and No Other Standard.
No Other Standard is Bahnsen's response not only to the Westminster faculty's book, but also to the two other brief critical books against him, and to the various published articles and typewritten, photocopied responses that have circulated over the years. One by one, Bahnsen takes his critics' arguments apart, showing that they have either misrepresented his position or misrepresented the Bible. Line by line, point by point, he shows that they have not understood his arguments and have also not understood the vulnerability of their own logical and theological positions.
What we have seen, year after year, is that his published critics subsequently refuse to debate him in public. Example: Meredith Kline's sweetheart deal with the editor of the Westminster Theological Journal (W. Robert Godfrey) that Bahnsen would not be allowed to respond in the WTJ to Kline's hostile 1978 essay. Example: the refusal in 1989 of H. Wayne House (co-author of Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?) to allow Bahnsen to cross-examine him during a scheduled public debate, after House had issued a public challenge to Bahnsen to debate. Bahnsen insisted, so House cancelled the debate. Example: Norman Geisler's refusal in 1991 to debate Bahnsen at Liberty University, and then Geisler's appearance at an anti-theonomy symposium two days after Bahnsen had left the campus. They all know what the results of such a debate will be; thus, they launch hit-and-run attacks when they think their readers and listeners will never read Bahnsen's response. Joe Louis once said of an ill-fated scheduled opponent in the ring, "He can run, but he can't hide." Likewise, Bahnsen's critics. No Other Standard corners them all, and one by one, floors them.
Some attempts at refuting the theonomic position rest on reasoning which is notoriously fallacious. Critics at times employ a line of thinking which they would readily recognize as unreliable and illegitimate on just about any other topic, even though they press it into service in an effort to criticize theonomic ethics. Examples which are especially noteworthy include the theological fallacy of testing God's authoritative word by extrabiblical standards, the related fallacy of appealing to subjective impression, and the logical fallacy of arguing from silence....
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