Inductivism, Inerrancy, And Presuppositionalism -- By: Greg L. Bahnsen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:4 (Dec 1977)
Article: Inductivism, Inerrancy, And Presuppositionalism
Author: Greg L. Bahnsen


Inductivism, Inerrancy, And Presuppositionalism

Greg L. Bahnsen*

At the heart of contemporary evangelical Bibliology and apologetics is the question of Scriptural inerrancy—in particular, the most appropriate and effective method of its exposition and defense. The three elements mentioned in the title of this paper have been derived from a short but potentially significant interchange between Daniel Fuller and Clark Pinnock in the Christian Scholars Review.1 Their brief discussion of Biblical authority is a noteworthy skirmish—~one that puts a particular epistemological and apologetical outlook to a critical test. An analysis of the Fuller-Pinnock encounter may very well offer evangelicals unexpected but sound guidance through the thicket of present-day theological and apologetical questions impinging on inerrancy. To begin this recommended analysis we can rehearse how Fuller and Pin-nock relate the three topics of inductivism, inerrancy and presuppo-sitionalism to each other. Three major theses emerge from a reading of the two published letters exchanged between these two writers and each can be substantiated by quotation from the relevant literature. Thesis I may be stated as follows: Presuppositionalism is opposed to empirical procedures and inductive investigation.

Fuller says to Pinnock: “If faith really has to begin the approach to Scripture, then I don’t think you can talk very meaningfully about induction. I would argue that really, after all, you are on Van Til’s side, not on Warfield’s” (p. 331). “I am trying to do as Warfield and let induction control from beginning to end. You say on page 185 [of Pinnock’s Biblical Revelation] that following Christ’s view of Scripture ‘will always prove safe’… This is the language of an unassailable starting point—the language of deductive thinking—of Van Til” (p. 332).

Pinnock replies to Fuller: “It is more common to be criticized by our fideistic evangelical colleagues for being too concerned about questions of factual verification. Dr. Fuller recognizes that I wish to follow the epistemology of the Princeton apologetic as it was developed by B. B. Warfield, but he believes that I am inconsistent in this and tend to lapse into presuppositional modes of expression, if not thought. He would even place me on Van Til’s side. Mirabile dictu” (p. 333). Pinnock wants us to understand that “Dr. Fuller and I share a view of the constructive relation between faith and history” (p. 333).

Thus it is that both Pinnock and Fuller set an inductive, empirical approach (like that of Warfield and the Princeton school) over against the approach of presuppositionalism (as ...

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