Always Ready was written by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen. Dr. Bahnsen was born in 1948 and went home to be with the Lord in 1995. He was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, author of numerous books, renowned conference speaker, and an excellent public debater. The book was edited by Robert R. Booth. The overall goal of Always Ready is to provide directions for defending the faith.
The book is structured in a way that is clear for the average reader along with the challenging thoughts welcomed by the most anxious scholar. There are five sections in the book along with an appendix on a Biblical exposition of Acts 17. The five sections of the book is as follows: the Lordship of Christ in the realm of knowledge, the conditions necessary for the apologetic task, how to defend the faith, the conditions necessary for apologetic success, and the answers to apologetic challenges. In order to provide a complete review of this great work, we will give a basic overview of each of the five sections listed above.
The first section of Always Ready is ‘the Lordship of Christ in the realm of knowledge.’ This section deals with the mistake that many Christians make of being neutral in their defense of the faith. Unfortunately, there are those who will abandon their basic presuppositions in order to find ‘common ground’ with the unbeliever. Studies in the academic world such as the sciences have their place. These studies are important to the believer to have a greater understanding of the world that God created. However, these studies, as important as they are, are not essential in defending the faith. Dr. Bahnsen proposes that neutrality is actually immoral. There is no ‘common ground.’ The scripture plainly states, “You are either with me or against me.” There is no middle ground. As Christians, we cannot adopt the secular world-views in order to somehow attempt to reach the world with the gospel. The fact is, as stated in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” You cannot understand without first knowing God. This is the problem that exists between the believer and the unbeliever. The unbeliever has developed a presupposition that the God of the Bible is not real. The believer, however, has accepted the God of the Bible to be the one true God. The reason the believer accepts the God of the Bible is because he or she believes the Bible to be the Word of God. Therefore, everything the believer sees is seen through the lenses of scripture. The unbeliever does not have this. They must look at the world through the lenses of science and man-made philosophies. When the believer attempts to set aside his scripture lenses in order to be ‘neutral’ in his arguments with the unbeliever he is immoral in that he is abandoning the foundation of what he believes. The mind of the believer is to be rooted in Christ. He is a changed person. He has come out of the darkness and into the light and now has understanding. The unbeliever is still in darkness. This is why in order to have knowledge, you must ‘fear the Lord.’ You must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to be in the light of understanding. This does not mean the unbeliever cannot ‘know’ things. It just simply means that the unbeliever has no purpose or meaning to what they know. They may contribute greatly to the world of knowledge but without faith in Christ there is no real clear understanding of that knowledge. In order to effectively defend the faith one must submit to the Lordship of Christ in realm of knowledge. To do this, it must be understood that the Word of God has self-attesting authority. There must be a total commitment and submission to the Word of God as the final authority in all areas of life and study. Without such a commitment, true Biblical apologetics is impossible to achieve.
The second section of Always Ready is ‘the conditions necessary for the apologetic task.’ In this section we learn of our need for a presuppositional apologetic. The fundamental truth that must be understood is that God is the originator of all truth. Our entire belief system must be built upon our understanding that God is real and His Word is the absolute authority. To hold to such a view one must be careful to not become arrogant. In order to hold to presuppostional truth, there must be a humble boldness. Our arguments for truth must be presented with confidence but in a manner that is humble in light of the greatness and glory of God. The presupposed truth that there is a God and God’s Word is the absolute authority is something that was created in each of us. Part of being created in the image of God is the inner knowledge that He is real and the built-in desire to know God. This is an inescapable knowledge which leaves those who deny this truth in complete denial and rebellion against God which in turn classifies them as a ‘fool.’ There are those that say that such an approach to apologetics does not work in discussions with unbelievers. These are those who say we must be neutral in our approach. There is a ‘common ground’ that we have with unbelievers. That ‘common ground’ is the fact that we are all sinners and we all need Jesus. In discussions with the unbeliever one must never stray from this truth. Those who deny that God is real and that they are sinners are fools. These fools cannot attain true knowledge until their hearts are soften and they come to the realization of their need for salvation through Jesus. Therefore, a good apologist will use the Bible as his foundation for all arguments and will build upon that foundation in order to bring unbelievers into the light of God’s grace thereby granting them understanding and true knowledge.
Now that the author established the need to submit to the Lordship of Christ in the realm of knowledge and the conditions necessary for the apologetic task, he then moves on to a more practical part of his argument in section three which is, ‘how to defend the faith.’ In this section Dr. Bahnsen deals with the following: the foolishness of unbelief, a two-fold apologetic procedure, answering the fool, worldviews in collision, and the ultimate starting point: God’s Word. As the scripture states, those who deny the existence of God are fools. The only way to convince the fool of the truth is to not necessarily give him proofs or evidences, but to reveal to him the error of his ways and his need for faith in Christ. After all, you cannot ‘prove’ God. God is above all things. As the psalmist stated, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is high, I cannot obtain it.” This is where the collision of world-views take place. One view is secular and based on man’s knowledge. The other view is based on the authority of God’s Word. In order to answer the fool, the apologist must start with the Bible. To put aside the Bible for the sake of argument with the fool is to commit spiritual adultery. The best way to defend the faith is to live out the faith. We have nothing to prove. We must stand strong on God’s Word, taking the Bible at face value and live according to its principles. As God’s Word changes us and molds us into the image of Christ, the fool will see that change. The best evidence for our faith is not the latest discovery, but a changed life.
The fourth section of Always Ready gives the ‘conditions necessary for apologetic success.’ The major condition that is addressed is the fact that knowledge comes from God. He is the one that sovereignly grants understanding. We know what we know because He has allowed us too. Even the unbeliever in the academic world, who has contributed greatly to society, could not know what they know apart from the existence of God. However, it is one thing to ‘know’ and another thing to ‘understand.’ The unbeliever may ‘know’ a lot of things. He may be able to make great contributions in various fields of science. However, there are always questions in his mind. There is always doubt. There is no purpose. All is vain. Nothing makes sense. But, everything can make sense. There can be a purpose. The light can come on and knowledge can be understood. You see, one must believe in order to understand. For the fool to come to understanding He must come to Jesus. This strategy is guided by the very nature of belief. Everybody believes in something. The Biblical apologist must strive to bring the fool into the realm of understanding through believing. It is all a matter of faith. It all boils down to the question, ‘will you believe?’ The author gives the example of Eve in the garden of Eden. How did sin begin? It began with doubting God. Satan beguiled Eve. He brought into question the very authority of God’s Word. When we question God’s Word, we find ourselves groping in darkness. This is why believing God’s Word for what it says is so important. When you question one thing, you must question the whole; for the Bible is a whole. For example, if God did not create the world in six literal days as Genesis describes, then how can we trust the Bible when it comes to the message of salvation? Too many Christians today have fallen prey to the lies of Satan in the name of ‘apologetics.’ Many have adopted the world’s way of thinking in order to be neutral or to find ‘common ground’ with the unbeliever. Brothers and sisters, this ought not be! Don’t be deceived like Eve. To defend the faith we must know what we believe and we must not ever compromise on what we believe no matter what the world says. So, the conditions for apologetic success includes: knowing that all knowledge comes from God, one must believe in order to understand, our strategy must be guided by what we believe, don’t be deceived like Eve, and don’t compromise.
The fifth and final section of Always Ready gives ‘answers to apologetic challenges.’ Dr. Bahnsen gives five basic problems that the apologist will face: the problem of evil, the problem of knowing the super-natural, the problem of faith, the problem of religious language, and the problem of miracles. Three of these are very basic and worth further examination. One is the ‘problem of evil.’ The unbeliever will often ask the question, ‘if God is so good, why is there such evil in the world?’ This question has a fairly easy answer. The evil in the world did not come from God. The terrible condition of our world today came from man’s own rebellion against God. It began when Adam sinned in the garden. The question then may be, ‘why did God allow it to happen?’ The answer is also very simple, because of love. God loved us (humans, created in His image) so much that He gave us a free will. He wanted us to choose for ourselves whether or not we will follow Him. We all know, that true love is letting go. If you really love someone, you will ‘let them go.’ You will not dictate to them, you will let them choose. That is what God did for us. Therefore, God has allowed us to make the choices we have made because He loves us. But, the good news is that His love for us is so great that though He ‘let us go’, He provided a way back to Himself through the cross of Jesus Christ. The other problem worth noting is the ‘problem of faith.’ The unbeliever may say that ‘seeing is believing.’ There is some truth in that statement. You see, our faith is not a blind faith. Our faith is based on reality, on historical facts. Can we see God? No. But, we can see the evidence of God. Were we there when Jesus died and rose again? No. But, there are historical documents that attest to that fact that Jesus died and rose again. The unbeliever must be shown how they too believe what they believe by faith. They cannot prove that God does not exist no more than we can prove that He does. Therefore, they too must have faith. However, the difference is that our faith makes more sense. It gives purpose and meaning. It brings everything into perspective. It brings understanding. So, the unbeliever must choose what he will have faith in. Will he have faith in a world where there are no answers and reason for anything? Or, will he have faith in God who brings knowledge to life and gives hope for a future? The third problem worth examining is ‘the problem of religious language.’ Often times as Christians we make the mistake of thinking that the unbeliever understands our language. We use terms like: ‘born-again, saved, etc.’ We tend to talk ‘religiously’ using terms that the unbelieving world does not understand. This is why in defending the faith we must be real and clear. We must define what we say. There is no need for religious jargon. Just give them the truth. Show them what God’s Word says. These apologetic challenges, among others, must not rattle us or deter us from defending the faith. We should know what we believe and stand firm, ready to give an answer to those who question what we believe.
Always Ready by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen is a fascinating read. I would encourage all believers who desire to share their faith effectively to read this book. It is very clear and concise and provides clear insights into how to defend the faith.