What is propitiation? That was one of the central elements of the Reformation of doctrine, and one of the most problematic issues in the modern Evangelical movement today. It has to do with many, many areas of theology, and we can’t possibly cover them exhaustively in a single blog post. But in a nutshell, what is it? In a nutshell, it is the “turning away of,” “appeasement” or “satisfaction for” the wrath of God due sinners. It is, therefore, intimately bound up to our notion of what the wrath of God actually is. It is bound up with sacrifice, atonement, substitution, holiness, sin, and many, many other subjects – to include the attributes of God, as we’ve already noted. With it having such a central place in our theology, the smallest misstep will have far-reaching consequences throughout.

If we are to talk about the wrath of God, are we to speak of it as something incidental to God, or as an attribute of God? It surely cannot be something incidental to Him. It is something He is said to possess; “My wrath”[1], and it is just as often called the “wrath of God”, or “of the Lord”. It is said to be magnified by the frequent use of modifiers such as “great”. God’s name is great, His power and strength is great, He is great in mercy, lovingkindness, and holiness. All of these likewise belong to God, and are affirmed of Him, then so must Wrath belong to God, and be affirmed of Him. It is one of His attributes.

If, as we have seen, it is an attribute of God, then it must be addressed per Divine Simplicity. Under Divine Simplicity, the wrath of God is omnipotent, immutable, eternal, sovereign, just, a se, infinite and holy.

Further, it must also be noted that it is not the natures of Christ that were our substitute, it was the Person of Christ – namely, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. If we are to say that He was our substitute, we must say that it was the God-man that was our substitute. We must also note the connection with this being the case alongside the nature of the wrath of God. Gill:

Eternity it not of the essence of punishment; and only takes place when the person punished cannot bear the whole at once: and being finite, as sinful man is, cannot make satisfaction to the infinite Majesty of God, injured by sin, the demerit of which is infinite punishment: and as that cannot be bore at once by a finite creature, it is continued ad infinitum; but Christ being an infinite Person, was able to bear the whole at once; and the infinity of his Person, abundantly compensates for the eternity of the punishment.

Let me add a few more notes, here. Gill, above the quote given here, notes

that Christ was ‘put to death in the flesh;’ as the apostle expresses it (1 Pet. 3:18), that is, in the body; that only suffered death; not his soul, that died not; but was commended into the hands of his divine Father: nor his Deity, or divine nature, which was impassible, and not capable of suffering death; and yet the body of Christ suffered death, in union with his divine person; hence the Lord of glory is said to be crucified and God is said to purchase the church with his blood (1 Cor. 2:8; Acts 20:28). And the death of Christ, as the death of other men, lay in the disunion of, or in a dissolution of the union between soul and body; these two were parted for a while; the one was commended to God in heaven; the other was laid in the grave: but hereby he was not reduced to a state of non-existence, as say the Socinians; his soul was with God in paradise; and his body, when taken from the cross, was laid in a sepulchre, and where it saw no corruption.

We cannot say that only one nature of Christ suffered, or we 1) Deny the union of Christ’s natures as expressed in Scripture, and formulated at Chalcedon, or 2) Deny, at least potentially, that Christ was our actual substitute, in His Person; we also cannot say that both natures suffered in the same fashion, however, at risk of 1) Denying the nature of God as immutable, impassible, eternal, and immaterial or 2) Violate the Creature/Creator distinction hypostatically. The Divine nature is immutable, impassible, immaterial, and eternal; hence not subject to the decay and corruption of death. It was, however, that one infinitely Divine Person who suffered the wrath of God. Not both natures alike, but both natures in union, and in concert, according to their nature. What the simply human cannot suffer immediately, the Divine Person, as Gill notes, did. Not equally in both natures, as the natures are not equal. This is a very, very complex subject, and we cannot treat it lightly. We cannot, on the one hand, attribute too much to mystery if it has, in fact, been revealed; but we cannot, on the other hand, speculate on things not revealed, and call them as such, if they are mysteries – so we must toe a very precise line. We must do so carefully, reverently, and studiously, lest we either take too much upon ourselves, or not enough.

It was not merely one nature which took the wrath of God upon Himself; else, we would be throwing out Chalcedon just as easily as Fudge does, if from a different perspective. We must ask ourselves – what was the point of it being the God-man who came if it was only the human nature which was under that wrath? We must also face the theological implications of passages such as “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Only with a full-orbed Christology, a full-orbed Theology Proper, a full-orbed Anthropology and a full-orbed Soteriology can we have a full-orbed Eschatology. The one demands all of the others. A lack of concentration on theology as an organic, cohesive whole spells disaster for our theology, and the apologetic which flows from it.

This outpouring of the Wrath of God against sinners is something which must be addressed if we are to speak of the propitiation for those sinners, or of Christ’s substitution for those sinners. What it was that was suffered is intrinsic to our idea of propitiation. The nature of the God-man is something that cannot be overlooked if we are to deal with his propitiatory sacrifice on the behalf of his people. The nature of substitution, in a precise manner, is also something we cannot pass over. In short, this further shows that a modification of one element of CT has a great, if not catastrophic, effect on the rest of our theology and doctrine, if we see that doctrine as it truly is – an organic whole.

  1. [1] 2Ki 22:17, 2Chr 12:7, Psa 2:12, 6:1, 76:10, 78:38, 102:10, 106:23, Isa 34:2, 48:9, 60:10, 63:3,5,6, Jer 4:4, 7:20, 21:12, Eze 5:13, 6:12, 7:14, Hsa 5:10, 13:11,

Why Shouldn't Paul Baird Choose Hats?

Paul Baird has given us his opinion in the case of the use of worldviews he does not adhere to.

This is a common complaint ie why argue a worldview that you do not hold ? The answer is the tallest child in the playground argument ie I do not have to be the tallest child in the playground to point out that you are not the tallest child in the playground – I can point out that individual (in this instance it would be a child of equal size).

Paul’s understanding here doesn’t really deal with the problem being brought forward. It may, of course, deal with the problem he thinks is being brought forward, but that is something else altogether. The complaint is in Dustin’s terms, of course, but it may be helpful to put it into the terms that our primary sources use, so that it might be recognizable. I appreciate Dustin’s work of course, but his expression of the problem, to me, seems to be unclear. When we speak of the problem at hand, we are speaking of the ability of a worldview to provide the preconditions of intelligibility. This may be expressed in the context of several different subjects, but chiefly, it must be said that it is only being expressed in terms of entire worldviews. When, for example, we speak of the preconditions for the intelligibility of knowledge, which seems to be the point of contention in the context of Paul’s remarks, we are speaking of epistemology. At this point, we are dealing with the subject of the quote “Choosing Hats” is named after.

Every system of philosophy must tell us whether it thinks true knowledge to be possible. Or if a system of philosophy thinks it impossible for man to have a true knowledge of the whole of reality or even of a part of reality, it must give good reasons for thinking so. From these considerations, it follows that if we develop our reasons for believing that a true knowledge of God and, therefore, also of the world, is possible because actually given in Christ, we have in fact given what goes in philosophy under the name of epistemology. It will then be possible to compare the Christian epistemology with any and with all others. And being thus enabled to compare them all, we are in a position and placed before the responsibility of choosing between them. And this choosing can then, in the nature of the case, no, longer be a matter of artistic preference. We cannot choose epistemologies as we choose hats. Such would be the case if it had been once for all established that the whole thing is but a matter of taste. But that is exactly what has not been established. That is exactly the point in dispute.

As such, it is obvious that this subject needs to be addressed by something more robust than “I do not have to be the tallest child in the playground to point out that you are not the tallest child in the playground.” In fact, it would point to the need for something far stronger than this particular assertion. What are the presuppositional commitments required for the assumption that the examination of epistemological foundations is as simple a matter as the observation of children’s heights? When looking at the subject at the level of presuppositional commitments, we see that it is no such matter at all. You cannot “simply observe” the validity of an epistemological foundation – it must be considered in terms of whether this epistemological foundation can provide the preconditions of intelligibility. Just as it is more than simple observation, it is likewise more than a matter of simple communication to “point out” who the “tallest child” on the playground actually is.

We are dealing with, not observational data collected by the senses, but epistemological foundations. You can’t “just look at” an epistemological foundation without having an epistemological foundation to be looking from. Paul, here, is missing the point in a rather unfortunate way. We are speaking of what makes anything intelligible at all – what must be presupposed in order for the “facts” he wants everyone to consider to be intelligible in the first place. He is making comparisons of that to empiricism, as if it is remotely applicable. It’s rather frustrating to watch Paul beating his head on a brick wall of his own misapprehensions, yet condescendingly dismissing his sore head as the fault of the person on the other side of the wall – on the basis of those same misapprehensions.

When he brings out his “pagan” worldview – he is assuming a commonality in everyone’s assessment of it, of atheism, and of Christianity. If he would care to read through Van Til, or Bahnsen, he would have to address the arguments they make as to why there is no neutrality in those sorts of assessments. What we actually are saying is not what Paul is assuming here. We aren’t assuming that there is some “common ground”, like the playground, where we are all assessing the heights of the respective “children”, or worldviews, in a collegial atmosphere. What we are saying is that the real discussion is over things like 1) Whose playground it is 2) Whether the “children” are children or chimera 3) What “tall” means in the first place 4) How you know what “tall” is supposed to be, anyway. To simply say “well, let’s see what this kid over here says” is to miss the entire point altogether. This is a round-robin affair, Paul. You are not a pagan, Paul. The Pagan child and the Atheist child do not agree with each other, let alone the Christian child. The Pagan and the Atheist agree insofar as their distaste for and disbelief concerning the God of the Christian – but they give wildly variant answers on questions such as “What is this playground?” What is the playground to a pagan? Is it, per Wicca,the manifestation of deity? Is this the same “playground” an atheist has? I can’t see how that is remotely the case. The atheist, as they claim, fails to hold every god-belief. So, for Paul to claim that this “answers” the problem we’re posing requires him to say that he agrees with what the Pagan’s playground is, if he is going to cite the Pagan’s opinion of the matter! Further, and this should be obvious, it necessitates a rather disturbing state of affairs for the atheist – it requires him to state either 1) It is unequivocally not the case that we are on the same playground OR 2) It is unequivocally the case that we are on the same playground, in which case he has to make a positive claim considering WHOSE playground it is. To make an actual positive claim seems to be anathema to an atheist of Paul’s stripe – and it seems that in order to make a claim, he’d also have to make an argument. This mode of operation seems similarly anathema to Paul. It would also require Paul to actually get what we are talking about, which at this point does not seem likely.

Let me reiterate; We are speaking of the nature of playgrounds, tallness, children, and pointing, not about “who is the tallest child on the playground”. We are speaking of the “nature of facts”, not of the “facts themselves”, as if facts are simply “there”, and uninterpreted. When speaking of a worldview, you are speaking of everything the worldview posits – be it metaphysics, epistemology, or physics. What seems sadly absent in Paul’s thinking is the willingness to pay close attention to what we are speaking of. He would rather dismiss it as whatever he thinks it to be, instead of exercising due diligence in understanding it. Since this has been the case up until this point, Paul must decide something for himself. Is he willing to actually look at what we are saying, or will he continue to insist on misrepresenting it? Up until now, he seems to have had serious problems grasping the nature of what he has been presented with. A case in point.

When he brings out Bahnsen’s quote concerning the “self-sufficient knower,” he insists on understanding it as some variant of the cosmological argument. He then proceeds to claim that Paganism fulfills the condition of “self-sufficient knower”. He doesn’t tell us why it does. He just says it does. After redefining what the argument is, for us, he then pronounces that paganism satisfies it! Says who? First, he doesn’t even identify the argument correctly, or it’s proper context. Second, he doesn’t give us any reason to think his worldview fulfills these conditions, or any clear sense of what these conditions are! Let’s examine first what this argument is, and it’s proper context, and then, what is necessary to fulfill that argument’s conditions.

In the cited argument, there is the stipulation that a self-sufficient knower cannot be denied, as the person denying such would, in the nature of the case, be himself a self-sufficient knower. Secondly, it is stipulated that there cannot be a plurality of self-sufficient knowers. You cannot have “two ultimates.” Thirdly, it is stipulated that if the first two are granted as insuperable, then you have three alternatives; solipsistic, skeptical, and revelational epistemology. Paul does not deal with that resultant discussion – and it is very germane to the discussion. It is not germane because it supposedly “develops a cosmological argument” – it is germane because it is an example of an argument from the impossibility of the contrary. In the first case, an argument is given which demonstrates the impossibility of solipsism. In the second case, an argument is given which demonstrates the impossibility of skepticism. Following that, he argues that only a revelational epistemology affirming the God of Scripture – the “self-contained God” Van Til speaks of, satisfies the preconditions for the intelligibility of knowledge. In short, only a self-sufficient knower as God reveals Himself to be can grant us a functional, intelligible epistemology. If Paul would pay more attention to Christianity’s extensive library of theological definition and explanation, and less to his own self-congratulations, he might get somewhere with the conversation, instead of continually demonstrating his need for correction and instruction on what he is claiming to object to.

The Pagan worldview I’ve put forward satisfies all of Bahsen’s and Dustin’s conditions, furthermore Bahsen’s conditions do not rule out the possibility that such a non-Christian worldview could exist, yet Presuppositional Apologetics is based on the assertion that none could exist because of the impossibility of the contrary (to the Christian worldview).

It becomes easier to discern the parlour trick when it’s set out like this and it does perhaps explain why Sye, and his fellow Presuppositionalists, try so hard to focus the exchanges on the areas of the laws of logic and human perception as well as morality rather than, in Chris Bolts words, begin with the question “Where’s the beef ?”

Dustin lists 12 Questions for Mockgodafarians which I’ll answer from the Pagan worldview. Please remember the tallest in the playground argument throughout this. My answers are in purple.

Paul’s problem is that he keeps thinking he has found a “silver bullet” – when his real problem is that he doesn’t know where the beef is at. When he doesn’t investigate these sources, but instead reads them in such a way as it “says what he wants”, he gets something all out of kilter to what is being said. It isn’t contextual, and it doesn’t bear any relationship to what he thinks it says. It is obvious Paul doesn’t own this book. I do. If he had the book, he could look one page over and see an extensive discussion on the particulars and universals of knowledge. He would see exactly what I was speaking of earlier, in terms of entire worldviews, as a universal system of principles, and not merely “the particulars of his knowledge”. Only in a universal system of principles can be found an adequate interpretation of the particulars of knowledge. It is within the entirety of the Christian worldview – in the systematic exposition of Reformed theology – where he can find what it is we are saying. Reinterpreting our statements through his personal experience has done nothing but lead him astray from where the discussion is. If he persists in doing so, he is going to be left as the only one discussing what he is discussing. This is the case, because it bears no resemblance to what we are saying, nor does it accurately reflect what we believe. If he wants to rectify his problematic interpretation of what is being said, all he need do is begin asking questions, rather than making pronouncements about what the subject is. It’s really that simple. The problem is not that we are somehow “hiding” the argument away – it’s that Paul has shown almost no effort whatsoever toward understanding what the argument is, or what it means. It is not especially difficult, were he willing to put in that effort. I hope he does, and begins to ask, rather than to tell us.

Adventures in Missing the Antithesis

Paul Baird recently addressed what he seems to think is the “philosophy that underpins the Christian Presuppositional Apologetics.”[1] He’s wrong, of course, but let us show him why, shall we? He cites Chris’ citation of an argument tucked away in the appendix of PA:S&D as that supposed “underpinning.” Interestingly, he goes on to ask why “do Presuppositional Apologists not start with this explanation that PA is about establishing the need for a unique self sufficient knower and identifying that self sufficient knower exclusively as the Christian god?”[2] Well, that is readily apparent – because we don’t believe that to be the case. It’s not only false, but ridiculously so. See, Paul is suffering from the same problems that many do. They take their own presuppositional commitments, map them onto our own, and claim equivalency. This is not only highly detrimental to a proper understanding of what it is we are saying, but highly detrimental to being taken seriously as an objector. If Paul wishes to be taken seriously in his objections to PA, he must actually understand what does underpin it. Namely, he has to understand that Reformed Theology is what determines what we are saying – and that this predates Bahnsen significantly. In fact, he needs to understand that Bahnsen himself is not the one to look to at all for this! If Paul is serious about understanding what PA is, he must understand what Reformed Theology is. It’s that simple. The proper application of Reformed Theology in an apologetic context is what gives us the Presuppositional Apologetic.

So, if this isn’t what underpins the Presuppositional Apologetic, what does? Let’s make sure we, at least, don’t miss the antithesis! What we are after, contra Paul’s assertions, is to “press the antithesis” – indeed, as Bahnsen himself puts it, “This theme of the principial, epistemological and ethical antithesis between the regenerate, Bible-directed mind of the Christian and the autonomous mind of the sinner (whether expressed by the avowed unbeliever or by the unorthodox modern theologian), remained part of Van Til’s distinctive teaching throughout his career.”[3] Van Til, who we regard as the founder (and revivalist of) Presuppositional Apologetics, said that “It is necessary to become clearly aware of the deep antithesis between the two main types of epistemology”[4]. In short, if it is to be said that there is a fundamental underpinning to PA, it would be the doctrine of antithesis. Says Van Til, “Rather than wedding Christianity to the philosophies of Aristotle or Kant, we must openly challenge the apostate philosophic constructions of men by which they seek to suppress the truth about God themselves, and the world…It is only if we demand of men complete submission to the living Christ of the Scriptures in every area of their lives that we have presented to men the claims of the Lord Christ without compromise. It is only then that we are truly Biblical first and speculative afterwards. Only then are we working toward a Reformed apologetic.”[5]

We, then, cannot be considered to be trying to “establish the requirement for there to be a self sufficient knower, a variation of the argument from necessity that is usually articulated as the prime mover argument, and the assertion that that self sufficient knower can only be the Christian god.” That, according to Van Til, would simply be “wedding Christianity to the philosophies of Aristotle or Kant”! Further, Bahnsen argues, it is not this one argument which is the foundation of our apologetic. “In terms of theoretical principle and eventual outworking, the unbeliever opposes the Christian faith with a whole antithetical system of thought, not simply with piecemeal criticisms. His attack is aimed, not at random points of Christian teaching, but at the very foundation of Christian thinking. The particular criticisms which are utilized by an unbeliever rest upon his basic, key assumptions which unify and inform all of his thinking. And it is this presuppositional root which the apologist must aim to eradicate, if his defense of the faith is to be truly effective.[6]

Our goal is to set the presuppositional commitments of believer and unbeliever in antithesis – not to make a pseudo-cosmological argument. What we are concerned with, however, is arguing by “presupposition” – not by “prime mover”. All too often, neophytes to the study of Reformed theology and its commensurate apologetic pack the baggage of non-Reformed theology and argumentation over into that sphere. This is not the “silver bullet” they think it is – it is, unfortunately, a simple error, and quite commonly made. What Paul seems to have done is to take an argument from an appendix, in a book written when Bahnsen was quite young, incidentally, and make it into an all-encompassing, foundational principle of methodology. It’s neither the case that this argument is foundational, nor that it is fundamental to our methodology. Paul would be far better served by paying attention to what Van Til laid out as those foundations, and what Bahnsen himself said were those foundations. To make such a spectacular leap of unwarranted proportions simply denudes Paul’s comments of their strength and accuracy.

Paul tells us “the argument” is “about establishing that there ought to be a god, not that there is a god.”[7] If Paul had done the requisite study on the topic, instead of making unwarranted leaps, he would know that this is simply not the case. The PA argument is an argument “by presupposition” – it is a transcendental argument, from the impossibility of the contrary. Further, Van Til expressly states that it’s not about “establishing that there is a god.” Paul is negligent in his treatment of the position he is critiquing, yet again. Van Til tells us: “Christianity offers the triune God, the absolute personality, containing all of the attributes enumerated, as the God in whom we believe. This conception of God is the foundation of everything we hold dear. Unless we can believe in this sort of God, it does us no good to be told that we may believe in some other sort of God, or in anything else. For us everything depends for its meaning upon this sort of God. Accordingly, we are not interested to have anyone prove to us the existence of any other sort of God but this God. Any other sort of God is no God at all, and to prove that some other sort of God exists is, in effect, to prove that no God exists.”[8] Further, he replies: “The apostle Paul lays great stress upon the fact that man is without excuse if he does not discover God in nature. Following Paul’s example Calvin argues that men ought to see God, not a god, not some supernatural power, but the only God, in nature. They have not done justice by the facts they see displayed before and within them if they say a god exists, or that God probably exists. The Calvinist holds to the essential perspecuity of natural as well as biblical revelation.”[9] So, as we can see, Van Til says the express opposite of Paul’s assertion. Paul seemed to have implied that our recent Journal was a “waste of 30 minutes” – but with his seemingly consistent misunderstanding of our position, it becomes fairly clear that his reading comprehension and attentiveness is to blame on this score. If he had read my first paper, for example, he would know that I said “our opponent must, in order to actually address us, object to something very particular” – not to mention that I cited Van Til, just as I did above. Further, if he had read my second paper, he would know that I said: “Unregenerate men have knowledge of God sufficient to leave them without excuse; They know the God who created them exists, and enough of what He is like to well know that they are responsible to Him in all respects, and must submit to Him accordingly. They know that they are sinners against that God, and that they will have to account for their sin before Him. Yet, they do not want to hold that knowledge in the light, where it confronts them. They constantly attempt to suppress that truth, and to replace it with an unlivable lie.” Properly, I used a definite article, and was specific.

We do not argue for or about “a god.” This is incontrovertible, despite Paul’s attempted controversies. Second, we are not making some sort of “prime mover” argument, nor is the central, foundational, basic argument of the PA anything other than a transcendental argument. It’s not as if we haven’t explained what the transcendental argument is. It is not as if we have not expressed what the heart of our apologetic is. It is, however, the case that objectors consistently and unaccountably ignore these explanations, in favor of their speculative theories, which are easily countered by reference to what we have actually said. Paul keeps asking what a transcendental argument is. Paul, however, is apparently unable to read our website, OR any of the primary literature which we constantly refer to, to find out what that is. If we did share it with him, again, I have no doubt that he would begin to tell us what we are “actually” arguing, as he did in the post I’ve cited. Instead of making himself look foolish in such a visible and puzzling way, I would once again exhort Paul to take the time to actually examine what it is that we are saying, instead of reinterpreting sidebar discussions as if they are central of fundamental, in the strange and un-compelling fashion he has chosen to do so thus far. When he discusses the quotation from Bahnsen he presents, he shows no evidence of familiarity with the context of the citation. If he’s willing to make such a controversial comment on it, to the tune of an assertion that this, in juxtaposition to our stated position, is the real basis of a PA, it would make sense for Paul to argue why this is the case, would it not? Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case that Paul even owns this book, nor that he has read it. Contrary to Paul’s assertion, this argument regarding the self-sufficient knower is being made in the context of a transcendental argument. It is pointing out the preconditions for the intelligibility of knowledge, contra solipsism and skepticism. Paul, to be taken seriously with these sorts of comments, really would be better served by reading the books he is making arguments from, as he apparently has failed to do. Chris properly used Bahnsen’s citation in context; Paul failed to do so, in a rather spectacular fashion.

  1. [1] http://patientandpersistent.blogspot.com/2011/10/fundamentally-flawed-discussing-pa_08.html
  2. [2] Ibid.
  3. [3] Bahnsen, At War With the Word: The Necessity of Biblical Antithesis, Introduction – http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html?mainframe=/apologetics/At_War_With_the_Word.html
  4. [4] Van Til, Cornelius, A Survey of Christian Epistemology [Originally “Metaphysics of Apologetics,”] (New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1969), v
  5. [5] Geehan, E.R., Jerusalem and Athens, (New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1955), pp 24-28
  6. [6] Bahnsen, At War With the Word: The Necessity of Biblical Antithesis, 1.B.3. – http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html?mainframe=/apologetics/At_War_With_the_Word.html
  7. [7] http://patientandpersistent.blogspot.com/2011/10/fundamentally-flawed-discussing-pa_08.html
  8. [8] Van Til, Defense of the Faith (4th Ed.), pg 34
  9. [9] Ibid., 120, emphasis his

There are a significant number of newly “converted” (to presup, at least) folks that are quite zealous for the defense of the faith. This, I consider good. On the other hand, Scripture warns us against “zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge”, in Rom 10:2. This is especially important for us to consider. All too often, we have a tendency to “jump right in,” whether we are prepared to do so, or not. Zealousness leads us, with inadequate preparation, all too often to imbalance, and from or along with imbalance, to a sub-Biblical defense. Additionally, there is the problem of not knowing what it is you are to be defending! As putative apologists, we must not overestimate our own abilities, knowledge, or proficiency. This isn’t to say that I consider myself to be “perfect” – or that anyone else should, this side of glory; What I am saying is, we must be very watchful that our desire doesn’t outrun our wisdom.

When we have something we desire to do, we often run ahead, to the detriment of our preparation for doing so. Similarly, we often dismiss preparation for either pragmatic or pietistic aims, at the expense of doctrinal orthodoxy. Part of an adequate apologetic is the ability to teach. If you aren’t convinced of that, I would point you to the instances of apologetic encounters in Scripture. If you are defending the faith, there are certain preconditions for doing so. Principally, there is the precondition of knowing what you are defending. Secondarily, there is the precondition of an ability to teach what Christian doctrine is, so that it may be clear to your audience what in fact it is to be defended. Thirdly, it must be clearly said that there is the precondition of grace; and that graciousness is the product of sanctification, not of formal study. None of these aspects can be overlooked or dismissed; and they must not be dismissed, because Scripture clearly commands them of us. In fact, dismissal of these requirements is tantamount to rebellion. To overlook these requirements is a function of ignorance – but the intent of this post is to render you, the apologist, without excuse – and hence, repentant. We cannot afford ignorance in the cause of Christ.

So, let us look at what we are called to do. Those who are called to apologetic ministry must be within, and under the authority of, the local church. They cannot be “lone rangers,” and they cannot be “loose cannons”, or “independents”. If we are of those who believe, we must be within the fellowship, and be in fellowship (Acts 4:32). If we are of those who believe, we must be under the authority of elders (Acts 14:23). Apollos, we know, was a powerful advocate for the cause of Christ. Yet, he was amenable to being instructed by those who were older and wiser than himself. In addition, he was willing to be sent, and not to send himself. It was the brethren that sent him, and encouraged him – and in that fellowshipped sending, he in turn encouraged the elect, and refuted their opponents. (Acts 18)

Next, we must see that only those with adequate preparation should be engaging unbelievers. Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord. Paul, of course, had intensive training as a Pharisaical student – but even that did not suffice, did it? He spent 3 years being “taught of God” before he began his ministry – interestingly, roughly the same amount of time the other Apostles spent with Christ. I’m not trying to say we should all go be desert dwellers of some sort – or that we are all called to be seminarians, either. What I am saying, however, is that we cannot neglect an intensive, intentional course of study in the foundations of our faith, if we are to be apologists. This is not negotiable. In order to defend the faith, we must know what we believe, and be unshakably convinced of the truth of what we know before we are involved in ministry of this sort. Apologetics is no ministry for neophytes. The Christian life is likened to warfare, in Ephesians and elsewhere. Front-line troops are experienced, well-trained soldiers. They know precisely where they fit into the ranks, what their duties are, and have undergone systematic training in the art of war. No soldier learns his trade by osmosis. His trade is soldiery. Soldiers are trained; so must we be. This training is primarily not in the assemblage of arguments, philosophical justifications, or evidenciary studies. Those of you who are in the military; where did your training start? It started with the discipline a soldier required. Next, it moved to the care and operation of your equipment. Then, training moves to the proper movements of troops, of which you are a part.

The disciplines required of the apologist are both mental and spiritual. The primary discipline is the systematic study of the Word of God, and the doctrines therein. We must also be as fervent and constant in prayer and the confession of sin as we are fervent and constant in study. We must systematically practice the spiritual disciplines along with the mental disciplines we work to cultivate.

We must also be able to teach. In a Biblical apologetic, we are responding to the anti-Christian from, and with, Christian doctrine. As I have said for some time, it seems to be the case that the vast majority of objections stem from a fundamental ignorance of Christian doctrine. As Christians, we must admit that this is often the fault of those whom we have championed; and those champions themselves are either unable, or unwilling, to defend the Christian faith as a system of doctrine, rather than a philosophical abstraction. The defense of “a god” flies directly in the face of the Scriptural testimony. Keeping the doctrines of Christianity at “arms length” in their putative defense is nothing more than folly, if that is what we are truly defending. We cannot make an arbitrary distinction between what we believe and what we defend. We can do only damage to the doctrines we love by defending an abstraction rather than the reality. If you do not know, love, and cherish the doctrines of Scripture, you are simply fighting for yourself, not the fellowship of Christ. If what you defend is unrecognizable in comparison to the God you claim to know – it is readily apparent, and worse than useless. The knowledge of the Holy is understanding, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do not forget it for an instant.

When we as apologists engage in the defense of the faith we must be able to both recognize and correct the misconceptions that are foundational to, and undergird the objections raised to that faith. When we hear an objection, we must compare it to what it is we know. We waste an enormous amount of time responding to things that we know are inapplicable, or false. We waste so much energy that could be better used in teaching these objectors what it is they need to know about the God they reject. Objections should be filtered through the matrix of sound doctrine – and responded to as they warrant, not as the unbeliever assumes. We all too often consider the unbeliever’s conception of God to be “plausible”, or “possible” – while in reality, they are objecting to a man of straw. Instead of letting this pass unchallenged, take the opportunity to correct their misapprehensions. This is helpful to your fellow believers, as well! It is quite a redemption of the time (that unbelievers waste for themselves in their ignorance) to grasp that opportunity to teach what it is they should be addressing, and to outline for your fellows (and for other unbelievers) where it is they went wrong in their approach. Granted, we know that unbelievers both applaud and prefer their ignorance – but in responding in such a way, we leave them without an excuse, don’t we?

Lastly, we are to answer with gentleness and reverence. This does not mean that we do not step up boldly to answer; it does, however, mean that we are not to savage our opponent on a personal level, or to respond in kind when we are personally attacked. This does not proscribe a righteous zealousness for the doctrines of God; it does, however, proscribe an unrighteousness zealousness for personal vengeance and returning offense when it is given. It is often the case that unbelievers act like fools. We are to answer a fool according to *their* folly – as it deserves – but NOT to become like them. This is a trap many fall into – myself included. We are to be reverent of God, and mild in our responses.

We must also see that the Lord’s slave must NOT be quarrelsome; must be able to teach; must be patient when wronged; and must gently correct those in opposition. They must not engage in foolish or ignorant speculations – they produce the quarrels warned against.(2 Tim 2) Be mindful of your limits. Be watchful of your temper. Be wise concerning where and when you engage with unbelievers. Be discerning in your responses, and teach whenever and wherever it is appropriate. Be patient when you are attacked, or offended, or wronged. Do not engage in endless quarrels; know when and where to enter, and when and where to leave a discussion.

All of this I have given above is the product of the work of God, friends, not of your own efforts. It is the work of God; sanctifying and preparing you for His own work, not your own. We are bought and paid for – we are not our own possession, but His. Whatever you think you might be, you are either His, or you are your own – and God surely knows His own. You think you’re a presuppositionalist? Let me tell you what a presuppositionalist is.

We are to be those who have a deep, abiding love for the Scriptures, and the God whose revelation they are. We are to have a healthy, humble assessment of where we are in our relationship to God, and a deep understanding of whose we are. We are to immerse ourselves in the doctrines of Scripture; We are to flee speculation, and embrace the certainty Scripture provides us. We are to teach patiently, correct patiently, and learn patiently. We are not to be self-serving, not arrogant, and always mindful of the grace which we ourselves have received. We are to understand that what we have, is ours by the grace of God, and by no other means. We are not to coddle doubt, but to destroy it by the means God has provided. We are to know, to the depths of our soul, that what we defend is that which God has given – and how we are to defend it is also given by that same grace. Does all of this humble you? Does all of this make you feel inadequate? Does it remind you that we are, indeed, bought with a price, and not our won, and must thus work to the benefit of His church? If so, you might be a presuppositionalist – but be wary, lest you fall. We are all warned, and we must heed those warnings.

I’ve mentioned before that Presup is Sola Scriptura in an apologetic context. If you study Ephesians 6, the only weapon we have is Scripture. Hence, that is the only weapon we use. All of defenses are also God-wrought, so we have nothing to fear. Fear not – and stand.

I’m not going to link all of Paul’s posts in this – they’ve been linked ad nauseum from here, already. His blog is Patient and Persistent – I trust our readers are more than capable of finding these comments of his 🙂

There are times when I’m engaged in an exchange with someone and I’m not sure if I’ve understood them correctly. That’s how I felt reading Chris Bolt’s stuff. It turns out that I did understand him correctly.

Note: Paul does not here explain 1) What he understood correctly, or 2) How it is the case that he understood Chris correctly. I don’t think he understood Chris correctly. If he did, he wouldn’t say what he does. I cheat. I ask Chris 😉

Missing Clarity

So, let’s be clear then. The solution to the problem lies in a transcendental proof?

It’s quite unclear which problem Paul is referring to, here. From the quote from Chris that he has cited, there are several we can choose from.

(a) “the alleged problems he (Paul) cites with either APR or my (Chris) dismissal of PR2.”
(b) “the disagreement between Person A and Person B above”
(c) “how their respective revelations ground their abilities to engage in rational discourse.”
(d) “a discussion of how the respective revelations differ from one another.”
(e) “the disagreement between Paul and I, since we both claim to have worldviews which ground our abilities to engage in rational discourse.”

If I were giving Paul the benefit of the doubt, (and providing a healthy dose of speculative translation for our audience) I’d vote for (e), as that obviously makes the most sense in context. However, since Paul is an exceedingly “muddy” writer, with what seems to be a tendency to avoid specific referents for terms such as “that”, “what,” when the context is either extensive, or his referent is vague, this is guesswork, at best. Further, he fails to provide specificity when referring to something using the definite article – such as “the problem,” when there are many problems present. For a writer who (I would imagine) wants to communicate clearly, this tendency toward a lack of clarity is exceedingly unfortunate.

Just for clarity, is that a transcendental proof or a transcendent proof? I wouldn’t want to be pedantic or anything.

We’re speaking of transcendentals. It’s not pedantic to ask for clarification. I sincerely wish that objectors would do so more often. It saves trouble for everyone in the long run. However, nobody was talking about “transcendental proofs” that I saw.

Also, given that, on Paul Jenkins analysis, Chris posts his comments at a ratio of seven to one I think you can understand a request for the edited highlights of this transcendent/transcendental argument.

First, while this might be fascinating societal conversation, is there some sort of relevance to be had by mentioning this?

Second, where was this request made, and what does it have to do with the conversation thus far? Or, perhaps, are you confusing “transcendental proof” with “evaluating the exchange transcendentally”? There is a difference. Feel free to ask. We do teach this, after all 🙂

Is ‘yogic flying’ involved for example? Is it available on the NHS? Does it come it pill form, or, more importantly, is it falsifiable and repeatable?

I have no idea what this is even supposed to be. What does “yogic flying” have to do with the transcendental argument, and since you have, and I quote:

heard the PA argument and a host of other Theistic arguments and none of them interest me enough to divert my attention

Can you tell me how this supposed connection between the two makes any sense whatsoever? Or did you try listening for comprehension? If you don’t, it’s a waste of time.

Missing the Plea

Then, here it comes

This is not the Christian position. Perhaps Paul does not mean to represent the Christian revelation here. I do not know. He is, again, exceedingly unclear.

and that, is the expected special pleading. Hook, line, sinker, fishing rod, keepnet and the meat paste sandwiches to boot.

Can you cite a Reformed Systematic theology, confession, or author that gives this:

by it’s very nature is an internal mental experience

as the definition for “revelation” please? I’m extremely confused as to why you think this is special pleading, to use the terminology of theology in describing… theological terms. If you’re unaware of what the term’s definition is, that’s one thing – but reacting as if we’re “special pleading” when we’re using terms with a long-defined meaning is truly remarkable.

For instance, from the 1689 London Baptist Confession:

I.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

For the Christian, “revelation” is the Word of God – the Scriptures. This is nothing new, nor should it be a new phenomena to Paul. Unfortunately, what should be the case, and what is the case in the realm of internet atheism is something else altogether. You see, Paul is equivocating. He is equivocating the *experience* of a direct communication with God with what Christians are committed to – the finished revelation of the Christian Scriptures. For what I can only see as rhetorical points, at the expense of accuracy, he is insisting that what we actually believe, and have confessed, at this point, for over three centuries, is special pleading. Yet, without an argument. This is also sadly typical of internet atheism. It is no wonder that Chris has had to attempt to painstakingly walk Paul through a simple modus ponens – which Paul himself requested.

Missing the Argument

You see, it has been exceedingly difficult to watch the exchange. Paul asks a question, Chris answers, perhaps asks a question in return – Paul responds with mockery, yet does not address Chris’ answers, or questions with any seeming understanding of what is being discussed. At this point, one is left to wonder; is Paul really this obtuse, or is he simply engaging in sophistry in order to make himself look good? Perhaps both? I really cannot see another option. In fact, given Paul’s utter lack of argumentation in favor of whatever position he is attempting, I don’t think it’s even arguable that one or the other is in fact the case. This same pattern has recurred throughout this exchange. From what we have been presented with, Paul is apparently incapable of following even the simplest of arguments, even if they include premises that he specifically agrees with. If, and let’s illustrate, Paul asserts the following:

“I have had a revelation from a non-Christian supernatural transcendental entity that I use to ground my worldview.”

If, in further illustration, he demands the following:

Disprove that revelational epistemology, preferably in less than 1,000,000 words.

Then, naturally, we should expect Paul to be able to follow the response given to him, should we not? Unfortunately, Paul has proven especially unable to comprehend that which was presented to him, which was as follows:

If atheism is true, then PR is false.

Atheism is true.

Therefore, PR is false.

So, for those who are able to grasp a simple modus ponens, let’s break this down.

PR, I gather, stands for “Paul’s Revelation”. If, and this is apparently a big if, Paul actually is an atheist, then he would agree – If atheism is true, then PR is false. He seems to have completely failed to understand the point in question. Here is how it breaks down.

1) Paul is not attempting to say that this “supernatural entity” is a god, and the mere assertion is enough to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way (he doesn’t say, as far as I can tell)
2) Paul is positing this “supernatural entity” as a god, and that mere assertion is enough to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way (he doesn’t say, as far as I can tell)

In the case of 1), I really don’t see how he could mean anything else apart from “a god”, given the use of the negation of “Christian”, as well as “supernatural”. If he wants to make this an argument with any sort of force in regards to RE, it must a) Be parallel to RE, and therefore be a potential defeater. b) If there is some parallel to be had, despite not being revelation from a “deity”, *yet* supernatural, that’s Paul’s case to argue. Simply asserting that there is some vague “defeater” is frightfully poor argumentation. c) I would, simply, ask Paul to provide us with this revelation for examination, since his assertion is that it supplies, in contradistinction to RE, the preconditions of intelligibility. As I commented to him previously, it would be eminently useful for such dialogues if he would do a bit of research on these types of objections prior to offering what is, frankly, an objection we’ve dealt with many times previously, and which he has shown no awareness of in the course of this discussion – from either side. The assumption of novelty due to ignorance is a rather poor starting point for a meaningful discussion. It seems that Paul thinks this objection is either new, or unanswered. Neither is the case.

In the case of 2), Paul is forced into the argument Chris posits. Paul is an atheist. He is not a “non-Christian supernatural entity-ist”. So, Paul is not actually arguing his own position. He is offering a hypothetical he doesn’t even believe to be the case. As such, there is no argumentative force here. Paul agrees with all the premises of Chris’ response to his posited hypothetical, obviously. Paul believes that if atheism is true, then PR is false. Paul believes atheism is true. Paul therefore believes that atheism is true. This argument defeats Paul’s assertion, from within his own worldview. This is an internal critique. Now, Paul cannot do the same thing when addressing our worldview, because we actually believe it to be the case. There cannot be an *internal critique of our position* on the same basis that he is positing here. It is not a parallel, it does not affect our worldview, it is not a defeater, and it is, in all honesty, irrelevant. This is self-defeating. Paul cannot be an atheist and not-atheist at the same time, and in the same way. He cannot be an atheist to this supernatural entity, and believe in the revelation of this supernatural entity. Therefore, 2) fails internally.

I purposely gave Paul two challenges at this point – both in the case of 1), and none in the case of 2), because 2) is self-defeating. In the case of 1), Paul has to provide an argument for one or the other of these positions:

1a) Paul is not attempting to say that this “supernatural entity” is a god, and he must make an argument that this is sufficient to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way, as well as prove that it originates within his OWN worldview.
1b) Paul is not attempting to say that this “supernatural entity” is a god, and must provide the content of PR2 to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way, as well as prove that it originates within his OWN worldview.

Note that these options include Paul making an actual argument, not an assertion. This, I hope, will be instructive both to him, and to our readers. Shotgun assertions are simply that, assertions. The wider the pattern of the shot, the more ground you cover, and the less lead penetration you get. Shotguns are terribly ineffective weapons in the field of logical argumentation. Arguments are what we deal with, not assertions. In order to “make this stick”, Paul will have to come up with a real live argument, all on his own (hopefully after studying the requisite literature on his not-as-novel-as-he-thought attempt).

Further thoughts on 2)

There is a problem with Paul attempting to use 1) at this point, however. The problem is, of course, that he has already committed to 2) as his argument. So, any usage of 1) will be ultimately, inconsistent.

“As a non-Christian Theist I have had a revelation from my ‘God’. It reveals to me some things that I know for certain. This enables me to ‘ground’ my worldview such that I can critique the Christian worldview.”

Paul, at this point, has to resort to 2a) and/or 2b) – so let’s examine those.

2a) Paul is attempting to say that this “supernatural entity” is a god, and he must make an argument that this is sufficient to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way, as well as prove that it originates within his OWN worldview.
2b) Paul is attempting to say that this “supernatural entity” is a god, and must provide the content of PR2 to “counter” our Revelational Epistemology in some way, as well as prove that it originates within his OWN worldview.

So, let’s break it down some more.

Why does Paul have to prove that it originates within his own worldview? Obviously, because he’s trying to say that you could make arguments, if it were true. If this is truly a parallel to CT, it must prove that without it, “one could not prove anything.” Given that he’s asserting that you can make an argument, it’s hardly the case that he can make the argument from his own worldview, atheism, deny the one he is proposing, yet say that that worldview he just denied provides the preconditions for intelligibility. So, let’s examine Paul’s statement in his previous comment:

“I don’t have to actually hold that worldview in order to put it forward as a successful counter to the exclusively Christian PA.”

If he’s going to actually object to our worldview, if he’s going to prove that this “other revelation” is a real defeater, it has to have a defeat for our argument from the impossibility of the contrary, which he claims to have studied, or at least to know. To do that, it must *actually be the case* that this worldview provides the preconditions of intelligibility.

Missing Theology

But let’s step out of his claims for a minute, and deal with what he doesn’t seem to be taking into account at all. In the first place, he is dealing with a revelation that actually exists, has a multi-millenial history, and has more written about it than any other body of writing in the world’s history. It has it’s own, tremendously massive body of literature to accompany it – the accumulated scholarship of the ages, to deal with, and to address. The *basic* tool of the churchman in dealing with this tremendous body of work is the creed, which summarizes very compactly, what it is we believe. At the next level of detail is the confessions and catechisms, whereby we teach and instruct the church in what it is they are to believe. Then, there is the systematic theology, which is probably the most accessible format for someone who wants to learn what it is, precisely, we believe. Instead of availing themselves of these resources, it is all too often the case that the unbeliever will simply do some cursory research, and ignore these invaluable tools. A systematic theology puts all of the theology and doctrine of Christianity into a system – organized, referenced, and cohesively designed. As I wrote in my recent paper for our Journal, “we are defending something very particular, and our opponent must, in order to actually address us, object to something very particular. … In essence, in order to be actually objecting meaningfully, they must object to God, as He reveals Himself in Scripture.” Paul dismissed the Journal, apparently, as a “waste of 30 minutes” recently. If he wants to understand what we are saying, and to interact meaningfully with us, those articles are far more than a thirty minute read, and what they urge on the unbeliever is what they truly must understand in order to be taken seriously on any level.

At the level Paul is operating at the moment, he has, as Bahnsen put it, “made himself ignorable”. This is unfortunate, as his ignorance seems to merely feed his pride, and fuel his mockery. Even more unfortunately, his mockery is of something he doesn’t even understand. The modern atheist’s unwillingness to engage in any serious study of his opponent’s position reduces his objections to shadow-boxing. He is not “landing punches” if he cannot even see what he is swinging at. Paul is merely tossing a “Flying Spaghetti Monster Style Counter” out into the room, and acting as if this is some philosophically meaningful action. The FSMSC is a chimera. It has no substance. He isn’t dealing with a “parallel” of Christianity – he’s just making stuff up, and saying “nuh uh!” Not only that, but he just asserts that he doesn’t have to believe it, but it’s still a valid counter! Is this really what we’re supposed to be impressed by?

Paul would also be well-served in the study of Christian theology, and especially theology proper, should he decide to actually engage us in a serious fashion. His fundamental issues with such concepts as “revelation” serve him poorly. He may consider himself “well-read” in the field, but we have seen where he has stated that he “heard” the “PA argument” – and yet he is already asking what it is. All he has to do is do a search for “transcendental argument” on our site, and he’ll get a dozens of results. Shall we google it for you, Paul? Our site teaches the method. If he wants to know what it is – read the site. This is not difficult. We have seen where he has asserted that PA only “gets to a generic supernatural entity,” despite the amazing lack of comprehension that entails, and the appalling lack of argumentation he has provided to support this amazing claim. In fact, despite the specific argumentation we have on the site to the contrary, that isn’t addressed. I’m starting to wonder if Paul is on the outs with google, or with search engines in general.

Missing Hats

We have seen him say:

“The rebuttal is a counter-assertion of a non-Christian revelation that provides the same grounding and certainty for a worldview that can then be used to critique the Christian worlview without falling into the trap of having to accept the Christian god in order to deny the Christian god.

It’s like wearing a different hat.”

We have, therefore, seen his inability to comprehend what is actually meant by the name of our website, and what he has to provide in order to escape the argument it offers.

We have seen him assert:

“I don’t have to actually hold that worldview in order to put it forward as a successful counter to the exclusively Christian PA.”

Yet, we have not seen him prove this.

Missing the Target

Paul is very big on making grandiose assertions. He is very big on telling us what he knows. He is very big on mocking what he shows no evidence of understanding. He is, however, not especially big on making arguments. Arguments, you see, should result in proofs. Assertions apart from arguments do not provide proofs. Paul is very big on asserting what he thinks, and mocking anyone who disagrees – but I have yet to see him demonstrate a single assertion he has offered. I’m not feeling very mocked by someone who doesn’t know what it is he is mocking.

Chris also pleads for a debate – why, when it must be oh so simple to lay out, with brevity, what his transcendent/transcendental proof is ? He said I should ask. Again, I bet it will contain special pleading.

He has. You have to let your mouse do the clicking, Paul. (I googled it for you above. You’re welcome.)

If he feels insulted by my comment about his pomposity then he should reread the relevant paragraph in the style of the Rev Ian Paisley to see my point. I’ll be reading out in the Skepticule podcast recording using my impersonation of the esteemed cleric. 😀

I’m pretty sure it would have to be true, to be insulting. As I’ve read the exchange, the pomposity seems to be coming from your direction, Paul. Please hear me when I say this. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Please learn, before you embarrass yourself further. I would be more than happy to answer your questions, in whatever format you wish – but as it stands, your comments are simply embarrassing, arrogant, ignorant, and pompous. To be taken seriously requires taking the subject seriously. I’ve spent a good few years studying atheism and unbelief, despite the haphazard and inconsistent melange of ideas and contradictory positions most atheists tend to hold. If I can put the work in for y’all, please do yourself a favor and study something that’s actually meant to be studied. Your ignorance does you no favors. Oh, and just to short-circuit a repetitive little silliness from Paul – if you’d bother to write clearly, or study what you’re discussing, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time and electrons 1) Figuring out what in the world you’re saying in comparison to where everyone else is, and 2) correct the multitude of errors you keep pumping out in your (blessedly short) posts. It’s a good thing you have no interest in Presuppositionalism. I shudder to imagine what it would be like if you did. Instead of a “mere” 81 posts on the topic, you’d perhaps be approaching the insatiable obsession of Dawson Bethrick.

A Feminist Examines Presup

The post I’m about to respond to came in on my google alerts today. It was so packed with common objections and misconceptions that I decided to answer.

Evidentialism v. Presuppositionalism
I have noticed a worrying trend among some Christians. It is the turn away from evidentialist apologetics toward presuppositionalist apologetics.

Let’s start our presuppositional examination right here. From the get-go, presup is a “worrying” trend. Second, the author is apparently unaware of the link between Sola Scriptura and Covenantal apologetics. As I have said quite often on this blog, and in our chat channel, Covenantal apologetics is Sola Scriptura in an apologetic context.

Evidentialism holds that belief should rest on evidence.

Presuppositionalism holds that belief rests on presuppositions.

What would have been both accurate and useful would be to explain what we do believe about evidence, and to cite something, anything, from the primary sources concerning what the actual discussion hinges on. Namely, that your presuppositional commitments determine both what is considered to be evidence, and how this evidence is interpreted. This is a common problem with evidentialist and unbelieving critiques. For instance: “Nor can we disagree with [Warfield] when he says that the Christian faith is not a blind faith but is faith based on evidence.” [1] “I see induction and analytical reasoning as part of one process of interpretation. I would therefore engage in historical apologetics. (I do not personally do a great deal of this because my colleagues in the other departments of the Seminary in which I teach are doing it better than I could do it.) Every bit of historical investigation, whether it be in the directly biblical field, archaeology, or in general history, is bound to confirm the truth of the claims of the Christian position. But I would not talk endlessly about facts and more facts without challenging the unbeliever’s philosophy of fact. A really fruitful historical apologetic argues that every fact is and must be such as proves the truth of the Christian position. [2]

Evidentialist apologetics attempts to bring converts by revealing the evidence behind Christianity. Evidentialists say that scientific evidence actually supports Young Earth Creationism, that archeology has proven the truth of the Bible, both new testament and old, and that the evidence for Christ’s historic existence is overwhelming.

I would simply point out that vanishingly few evidentialists argue for YEC at this point in time. Further, they would not argue that it was “proven”, but that there is a greater probability for the truth of the Bible and/or Christ’s historic existence, as a rule. I would humbly submit to you that their “philosophy of fact”, as Van Til would say, has brought them to this point.

Presuppositionalist apologetics attempts to bring coverts by arguing that the only rational, coherent worldview is that which begins by presupposing the divinity of the Bible, the existence of God, and the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. In other words, presuppositionalists say that one must presuppose Christianity, and that trying to convince someone based on evidence is flawed.

We don’t argue for the “divinity” of the Bible. We don’t believe in a quadrinity, a la Fristianity. We don’t argue that the Bible is equal to Christ, as the Word, either. One must presuppose Christianity to be making an intelligible argument, obviously; but it might behoove the author to do a bit more research into what exactly is being said on this point. If the author means “convincing someone based on evidence” as if “evidence” was something everyone agreed upon, as if it was some sort of neutral ground, sure. Obviously, Scripture says that we and world consider each other to be foolish. It’s hardly the case that we should be expected to see eye to eye on what is, or is not, “the facts”. Hence, Van Til’s discussion of “brute fact”, which the author would be well-served to study, in my humble opinion. We don’t “attempt to bring converts” by this method. We, after all, are Reformed. As such, we are divine monergists, not synergists or human monergists, so conversion is quite obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, according to election. Neither “the facts” nor a transcendental argument will save – God saves, not man. Sure, they won’t hear without a preacher – but as the name “Yeshua” points out, salvation is of the Lord.

Evidentialist apologetics is traditionally associated with evangelicalism and fundamentalism while presuppositionalist apologetics is associated with more reformed traditions. This actually makes a lot of sense given that arminianism emphasizes free will while calvinism emphasizes predestination. It also makes sense given that Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer, both reformed, are the major luminaries who developed presuppositionalist apologetics. More and more these days this approach is spreading beyond reformed circles and into evangelicalism and fundamentalism in general.

Actually, evidentialism initially comes from Romanism, as has been carried along with the rest of the Romanist doctrine still held to by Arminianism and general Evangelicalism (to include the modern fundamentalist movement). I’d invite the author and her readers to take a gander at classical Thomism, and see what exactly the difference is supposed to be. The Reformation, of course, was a movement to “restore” Christianity. To restore it back to its historical orthodoxy. A walk back through history, and through the development of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, will show the intrinsic link between a practical use of Sola Scriptura and a presuppositional methodology. Van Til’s contribution to “Semper Reformanda” was the Reformation of apologetic methodology to the principle of Sola Scriptura. This understanding is positively vital to understand what is actually being said, and what it comes from. Most objections along these lines are not truly to presuppositional methodology; but to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. To answer these objections, and to accurately make objections in the first place, requires an understanding of this, and the proper relationship to be found there. General evangelicalism is attracted to covenantal apologetics in spite of itself, to be frank. The methodology does not lend itself to an Arminian, Romanist, or Dispensational hermeneutic. There are too many preconditions that are simply missing for it to be consistently and coherently used. As such, there will be a host of problems in execution, principle, understanding, and doctrinal compatibility that kill the method aborning, if you try to adapt it in some way. This is not to say that every group listed above is equally inconsistent, or that every individual is equally inconsistent; however, there is a specific doctrinal basis that it springs from, and without which, it simply does not have the framework in which to operate. Those varying inconsistencies crop up at various and sundry points – but keep in mind, please, that a truly Covenantal apologetic argues on the level of worldviews – and that it argues all of Christianity versus its antithesis; and that part of that expression of Christianity plainly states that there are but two worldviews.

I was raised on evidentialist apologetics (not surprising given that my parents were strong arminians). My parents were fond of telling the story of Josh McDowell, who started out as an atheist attempting to disprove the truth of Christianity and ended up concluding, based on evidence, that Christianity was actually true. I was taught to follow the evidence, and assured that evidence led directly to Christ.

This is actually fairly typical. Note, however, that there is usually a decided de-emphasis on the work of the Spirit in the use and presentation of evidence (not to mention the philosophy of evidence) in this apologetic methodology. Let’s be frank. If the Spirit is mentioned at all, it’s usually in a touchy-feely “invitation” at the end, after God is “proven” by means of “higher probability”. What the Spirit’s work is, as stated in Scripture, is practically never mentioned, and if it is, it bears practically no resemblance to the Scriptural testimony. The emphasis is more likely on the target’s will, and intellect – and practically never on that same person’s moral guilt before the holy God, which both affects and taints everything about that will and intellect. On the contrary, Reformed doctrine requires that the unbeliever be confronted with their sinfulness before God and their inability to reason, will, or act in any righteousness before God whatsoever. This is a confrontation that is just as much evangelical as it is apologetical. They are, after all, two sides of the same coin. The emphasis in evidentialism and evangelical doctrine, rather than on the Triune God’s monergistic work of salvation – in election, atonement, and regeneration – is on the synergistic work of man in reasoning, willing, and acting rightly of themselves, to “meet God” in the middle.

Having been raised on evidentialist apologetics, when I arrived at college and found new evidence I had never heard of as a child, I didn’t simply reject that evidence. Instead, I researched and read and studied and reevaluated my beliefs based on new evidence. I found, for example, that the evidence does not actually indicate that Young Earth Creationism took place (quite the opposite), that archeology has actually contradicted the Bible in many places, and that the Bible actually does contain historical errors and contradictions. This process of reevaluation started a long spiritual journey, and even today I continue to strive to follow evidence, and I work to make sure I take into account any new evidence I encounter.

In other words, having been raised in evidentialism, and the freewheeling doctrinal imprecision of arminian/evangelical churches, the author was never taught to 1) Think Biblically or 2) Think about what “evidence” means, or is predicated on. Since “evidence” is considered to be a neutral ground between believer and unbeliever upon which we have a point of contact, and since she was never taught how to deal with evidences on the level of their presuppositional commitments, she was caught between a rock and a hard place. If you are stuck between fundamentalist evangelicals and fundamentalist secularists, you will be either be grist for the mill, or “bail” in one direction or the other on any given “fact” that is presented. The “fact”, or how it is presented and interpreted, is never really examined. It “just is”, as if it is on the level of the self-existent God. Instead of interpreting “the facts” through Biblical presuppositions, “the facts” are, in reality, being interpreted through secular presuppositions that state that it is flatly impossible that the world could have come into being as the Bible said it did. If we are never taught to “dig beneath” the level of “brute fact”, we are simply fodder for the antithetical worldview, raised against the knowledge of God. “Striving to follow evidence”, then, is mere slavish adherence to secularist presuppositions concerning the nature and meaning of evidence.

The goal of evidentialist apologetics is to convince others of the truth of Christianity by using evidence. It assumes that anyone who honestly looks at the facts will arrive at the truth of Christianity, and that the facts support the truth of Christianity. In the last few years, my parents have been moving toward presuppositionalism. This makes sense, given that the evidentialist approach actually led me away from their beliefs and that Vision Forum is actually openly and proudly presuppositionalist.

The first two sentences are a more or less accurate restatement of evidentialism. The second two are more or less well-poisoning concerning presuppositionalism. Let’s notice two things about the former. First, she is talking about persuasion, not proof. As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a doctrinal divide there. Persuasion, in Reformed doctrine, comes only when the regenerate encounter the truths of Scripture, and believe them as it is given them to do so. This is separate from proof, which also has a fundamental divide in view. For the Christian, apart from the Triune God of Scripture, you can’t prove anything. For the non-Christian, proof is determined by their own presuppositional commitments as to what a valid “proof” consists of. Secondly, it is “assumed” that a) anyone who b) honestly looks at c) the facts will arrive at the truth of Christianity, and that those facts support the truth of Christianity. Let’s look at a) for a moment.
First, there is a lack of any sort of Biblical notion of election, or division between sheep or goats, or the effects of sin, or of the necessity for regeneration. This is a doctrinal issue, at base. Let’s look at b). Arminianism, following Romanism, considers men to be able to choose good, to be intellectually honest, or to act in such a way as to properly respond to the truths of God – of themselves. This is vastly different from the historical orthodoxy the Reformation sought to return to, following Scripture, which teaches that men, in and of themselves, are evil, and they do the work of their master, Satan. They are slaves to sin, and unable to break those chains. Only the regeneration of the Spirit can break those chains, given men a new heart and mind, and give them the faith which which they believe the Gospel. This is a fundamental disconnect, and cannot be overemphasized. As for c), we simply point out that God is truly and exhaustively Sovereign. This is also a fundamental disconnect from the insistence on libertarian free will that stems from Romanist/Arminian/Evangelical doctrine. I’d also point out that it differs not a whit from the insistence of the world on their own self-determination in the realm of the intellect, the will, and their own actions. This is also a doctrinal issue. As Reformed believers, we stress, with much insistence, the Biblical testimony to the exhaustive sovereignty of God over all things whatsoever that come to pass. Given this doctrine, all facts are God’s facts. I’ll repeat this; All facts are God’s facts. If all facts are truly God’s facts; if God ordains both ends and means, and every single relationship thereof, in a truly exhaustive fashion, then there is no room for “the facts” as they are presented to us by the Evangelical/Secularist position. All facts are, given what God has revealed to us in His Word, guaranteed to us by His Spirit, and shown to us in ourselves, and in the creation surrounding us, actually evidence for the truth of Christianity. It is not neutral evidence. It is a hostile witness against a rebellious subject.

Presuppositionalism argues that the evidence we experience in the world is simply facts and pieces of data that must be interpreted through an interpretive framework, or worldview, and that the only way to consistently interpret these facts is through the Christian worldview.

The first part is wrong; the second part is right. Here’s why, and it will be expanded below. It ignores that “all facts are God’s facts”, as we just explained. As she will say below, she assumes exactly the opposite of what we believe, and inserts that in our position. It is not the case that “facts and pieces of data” are “simply” that, and merely need to be “interpreted” – it is actually the case that the only framework through which facts are even intelligible is that which is revealed to us by the ordainer and the creator of all that is to be filtered through that framework, and of the framework itself. Facts are not neutral.

In other words, a person looking at facts and evidence will not necessarily be led to Christ; rather, one must start by assuming the truth of the Bible in order to find Christ. You can see the influence of calvinism here. Presuppositionalist apologetics, then, focuses on pointing out inconsistencies of other worldviews and arguing that Christianity is the only coherent worldview, the only way to explain the existence of reason and logic. In fact, presuppositionalism literally goes so far as to argue that evidence-based apologetics – as opposed to apologetics based on contrasting worldviews – is contra-Biblical.

Actually, we go quite a bit farther. The Shepherd finds His sheep – we don’t “find” Him, because we aren’t the One looking. Yes, Calvinism is in view here, but I’m not sure how much the author really has studied Calvinism as a complete system. The point isn’t that we “assume the truth of the Bible to find Christ” – it’s that the Spirit’s regenerative work, and the gift of faith and repentance are the preconditions for our salvation; that the work of Christ in His atoning work for His people propitiates the just wrath of the Father, and that the electing grace of the Father, who draws men to Christ is the precondition for it all. In short, it’s not anywhere near this simplistic presentation. The Spirit grants us faith – and the new heart and mind to accompany it, so we believe and/or trust the Author of Scripture as we ought. The focus of Covenantal apologetics is two-fold, actually, not singular. It “pushes the antithesis” between Christianity and it’s opposite, to show that a) Christianity, as revealed by the Creator of all things, is the sole possible precondition for the intelligibility of all things; and b) that it’s opposite is impossible. It’s a two-step method, not a one-step method. “The first step is to lay out the Christian worldview in terms of which human experience is intelligible and the objection of the unbeliever can be contextually defeated. The second step is to show that within the unbeliever’s worldview, nothing is intelligible – not even objections to the Christian’s viewpoint.”[3]

Presuppositionalists don’t deal with evidence, because they argue that evidence and facts are neutral and can be used to support any worldview, because they are interpreted through that worldview’s lens. In other words, if someone presupposes a world without God, that’s what they’ll see; if someone presupposes a Christian world, that’s what they’ll see; if someone presupposes a Muslim world, that’s what they’ll see; etc. That is why presuppositionalists spend their time not on the evidence but rather on trying to show that their worldview is only rational, coherent worldview in existence, and that every other worldview is internally contradictory. Evidence doesn’t matter; what one chooses to believe is what matters.

This is catastrophically wrong. It is absolutely opposite to what we believe, in fact. First, I categorically deny that evidence and facts are neutral. In fact, I have specifically stated that they are not. On every single point the Christian and non-Christian are fundamentally at odds. There is no point in our respective worldviews where we have any neutral ground whatsoever. If that isn’t clear enough, I’ll spend as much time as it takes to make it clear. This statement is absolutely, unequivocally false. There are two worldviews, and they take antithetical positions on every fact whatsoever. It is the case that facts are not neutral, and can only be intelligible when the Christian worldview is presupposed. It is not the case that facts are neutral and can be interpreted differently, depending on which worldview you happen to hold. Additionally, please take note of the usage of “worldview” here. I have said, several times, that we believe there are two worldviews. We are not saying that there are three, or any higher number. There are two, and only two. There are many practically inconsistent variations of the non-Christian worldview; just as there are inconsistencies in the Christian worldview of many actual (or putative) Christians. Yet, there are only two worldviews. I’ll leave you to research the principle/practice dichotomy Van Til presents.

We don’t spend our time on “trying to show that their worldview is only rational, coherent worldview in existence, and that every other worldview is internally contradictory” because “evidence doesn’t matter”; we spend time proving that the Christian worldview is the only possible worldview by demonstrating that the contrary worldview is impossible – it does not provide the preconditions for intelligibility. We do this because it is actually the case that the non-Christian worldview does not provide those preconditions. Not because “evidence doesn’t matter” – but because evidence is unintelligible unless our worldview is presupposed. The last sentence is the real problem with the author’s view of presuppositionalism. “What one chooses to believe” is predicated on what you presuppose. What you presuppose is directly consonant with whether you are regenerate, or unregenerate. It is that clear cut. Are you a “slave to sin” or are you “Christ’s slave”?

The problem with these people is that you can’t argue with them. They’re going to believe it because they believe it, and nothing else matters. As an example, Answers in Genesis, a Young Earth Creationist group that runs the Creationist Museum in Kentucky and has recently embraced presuppositional apologetics wholeheartedly, is actually completely open about the fact that it simply rejects evidence that contradicts their interpretation of the Biblical account of creation. It’s not about the evidence. It’s about the presupposition. And no matter what you say, you’re not going to change their minds.

“These people” seems to indicate what the author thinks of those who adhere to this method. Instructive, indeed. Far from not being argued with, I can personally attest to the fact that I am argued with constantly by objections from unbelievers as well as putative believers. Once again, the distinction between persuasion and proof is not being addressed. An argument is a proof. Acceptance of it as true is persuasion. It is not that they “can’t argue with these people” – it is that they a) aren’t persuading us and b) are not being persuaded. As we have already stated, this is both accounted for by the Scriptures, and expected. God changes hearts and minds, not us. As to the attempted well-poisoning concerning AiG – I’d like to present this as evidence. If the author would like to share some substantiation of their statement, I’d love to see it. My suspicion is that it is yet another example of a confusion between a) proof and persuasion or b) the author’s misunderstanding of our position concerning evidence. What the author is doing with the continual drumbeat about “evidence” is simply confusing what we actually have to say concerning evidence. It’s not simply about evidence. We have no intention of being that superficial and unreflective concerning the nature of the discussion. What we are doing, however, is addressing the philosophy of evidence along with the evidence itself. If the author would like to show how she has done anything remotely similar in addressing this subject, I’d love to see it. What the author has done is to demonstrate the importance of what we are actually saying; a sort of demonstration concerning the law of unintended consequences. Unless she addresses the philosophy of evidence along with the evidence, she is simply assuming her own position vis a vis her philosophy of evidence, and demanding that others accept it. If others do not kowtow to her wishes, she dismisses them, and says “you can’t argue with these people”. “These people” would beg to differ, and would invite the author to address the philosophy of fact, or evidence, along with the facts and evidence.

Problems with presuppositionalism include:

The logic is circular: you prove something is true by assuming it is true.

Have you read any counters to this incredibly common objection before? I don’t see any discussion about those rebuttals in this post. There are… many… rebuttals. Example.

Presuppositionalism could be used to “prove” any religion, or even atheism.

Please provide an example. This is another common objection, incidentally.

Just because a worldview is coherent doesn’t mean it’s true.

Who ever told you that was our argument? Again, this is a two-step method, not a one-step.

There are many things about the Christian worldview that are arguably not coherent.

This is a great example of uncritical thinking. Do we consider them to be arguable? If not, why are you begging the question in your own favor?

There are other worldviews that also explain the existence of reason and logic.

Please enlighten us 😉

You can’t actually know something is true if you simply discount evidence entirely.

Utterly false description of our position.

Finding truth involves not making presuppositions, but trying to rid yourself of them.

Start with this one, please. We don’t make presuppositions; they are revealed to us. Second, this is really, really bad.

Presuppositionalism holds that everyone starts out with assumptions, and that starting by assuming the Bible is therefore no different than what anyone else is doing. Actually, most people start out with fairly simply assumptions.

No, it doesn’t. Seriously, if you don’t even know what you’re talking about, why are you writing on the subject? That is not even remotely our position. Do you really think the Bible is no different than what anyone else is doing? Do you think any Christian does? If so, why are they Christian, then? If even a fairly liberal type doesn’t even do that, why on earth are you saying Calvinists do, of all people? I can’t believe that you thought this through especially well.

I, as an example, start out by assuming that I can trust my senses and that the world around me is something I can seek to understand. Lest a presuppositionalist argue that these are atheist or materialist assumptions, I would point out that essentially everyone starts out with these assumptions. In fact, I have never met a Christian who didn’t start out with these same assumptions. Assuming that we can trust our senses and learn about the world around us is completely different from assuming the truth and divinity of the Bible or the existence of God.

“Lest” I do or not – those aren’t materialistic assumptions. Materialistic assumptions don’t exist, as assumptions are definitionally immaterial. However, even from another perspective, they don’t belong in materialism (per se) either, because she has no reason whatsoever to trust her senses, or to assume that she should. See, she’s saying next that “we all do it” – but the real question is “what justifies it?” Starting where she starts is purely arbitrary. Second, who says that this is “completely different”? Asserting assertions assertively is not an argument, or even close to one. Plus, she is an atheist. Hence, atheistic assumptions. Is this really that hard?

I have a friend who is a presuppositionalist. I recently asked her what she would do if archaeology directly contradicted a literal reading the Old Testament (it does). She told me that it would not change anything, because she would simply assume that future archaeological finds would clear up the contradiction and line up with the Old Testament. In other words, actual evidence in the here and now does not matter, not one whit. All that matters is her assumption that the Bible is true.

Notice: Facts are once again “brute”. Her philosophy of fact isn’t even examined. Whatever it “is”, is unquestionably. (Don’t look behind that curtain, Dorothy!) I can say to her, in return, “all that matters is your assumption that the facts are true”.

But I have to ask: If you simply assume your beliefs are true and throw out any use of evidence at all, if there is no possible evidence or experience that could disprove your beliefs, how in the world can you actually know they’re true? It would be like me saying that there is an invisible pink unicorn that lives in my room. You can’t touch it or hear it or detect it with any sort of test. You’re not ever going to come to the unicorn’s existence through evidence, and you shouldn’t try to. Rather, you simply have to assume it’s there. But then, if there is no evidence for it and it can’t be disproven, how in the world do I know it’s there in the first place? I don’t: I just assume it. Wha?

This incessant drumbeat on “throwing out evidence” is key to her ideas concerning our methodology. It’s demonstrably false. If she had read any primary source materials concerning our methodology, this would be painfully obvious. Instead, we are treated to one of the most asinine comparisons we’ve ever heard from atheism. As an aside? Using secularist arguments right after you imply your distance from secularism isn’t that great a strategy.

Interestingly, this emphasis on maintaining a persuppositional worldview is is why Vision Forum and others like it see secular colleges and secular sources of knowledge as dangerous. For them, facts and evidence are not neutral, but are interpreted through an assumed worldview. Therefore, a Christian should never study under a non-Christian, because what he will be learning falsehoods, not truth. One can only learn truth by studying under other likeminded Christians. The insularity this produces is overwhelming.

Interestingly, this emphasis on maintaining an objective view is is why Atheists United, American Atheists, Atheists Alliance International and others like it see religious colleges and religious sources of knowledge as dangerous. For them, facts and evidence are not neutral, but are interpreted through an assumed worldview. Therefore, a secularist should never study under a Christian, because what he will be learning falsehoods, not truth. One can only learn truth by studying under other likeminded secularists. The insularity this produces is overwhelming.

  1. [1] Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, p. 250
  2. [2] Ibid., p. 293, emphasis original
  3. [3] Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic – Readings & Analysis, pg. 268, Note 22.

Debate Announcement

On Februrary 5th, I will be debating Roman Catholic Dan Marcum (a Skype debate) on the proposition “Sola Scriptura is an essential Christian doctrine, and necessary for instruction in faith and practice“. My goal is to argue this proposition presuppositionally. I’m planning on a couple of podcasts in the near future to give the audience some preparation, and to ensure my opponent knows where I’m standing, going into the debate, so stay tuned.

Debate: Saturday, Oct 2nd

The debate is as 12pm EDT – you can get directions to the chat channel it’s being held in here. The thesis: “Is the Qur’an the Word of God?”

On Old Earth Presuppositions

I was struck, this morning, by Jamin’s article, also reposted to AOMin. Let me explain. I’m in agreement with Jamin 99% of the time – I even contributed to his book – “The Portable Presuppositionalist”. However, there are some statements in this article that I’d like to address. He has been dialoguing via email to Fred Butler, of Hip and Thigh, and decided to share his recent response as a blog post. In this article, he has the following statement:

We can calculate some numbers back to Adam, and that’s pretty cool. But that in no way results in “inerrancy and old earth creationism can never mix.” Again, must we really take the lead of Morris, Hovind, Ham, Chaffey, and others on the old-earth debate just because they had some good things to say instead of thinking more critically and realizing that the age of the earth just is not a hill worth dying on?

When I examined the article a bit closer, I noticed a few issues.

In his response concerning the uniqueness of the Genesis account, I read this:

A. The primary (e.g. most explicit and obvious) internal structure of the book is the Toledoth formula – “these are the generations of” …, which is mentioned 11 times from 2:4 to the end of the book. This heading not only “indicates a historical impulse” (Introduction to OT, 54), but it encapsulates the whole book into one category…except Gen 1, which is the only chapter in the book not to have this introduction. … Gen. 1 is unique in that respect.

B. The only citation of Gen 1 in the NT is of man being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27 in Matt 19 and Mark 10), a strongly theological point; there is no reference to chronology of Gen 1 in any of the NT, and (as far as I remember) any of the OT. Instead, Genesis 1 has some other literary features and “Hebrew parallelism”:

Maybe I’m missing something… but wouldn’t it be a bit tough to have the Toledoth formula in the chapter where the progenitors of those generations are created? It reminds me (forgive me!) of the argument that is often presented in regards to the period of enscripturation of the NT. It is, by it’s nature, an exception – which leads me to the next point.

Maybe, again, I’m missing something – but isn’t there another formula in Genesis 1 that is inherently chronological? “And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day.” That would seem to me the formula that binds this together, and makes it a chronological account, all at once.

But it is to say that if we have a question specifically about chronology, Gen. 2 would probably be the first place we should go, and if we have a general question about theology and the origins of all things – from birds to water – we should probably go to Gen. 1.
So, those are a couple of “the ways” I was referring to, and this is why I am hesitant to say “I’m a literal 24-hr 6-day young earth creationist” even though much of what I believe falls into that camp.

As pointed out above, I think that we’re forgetting something very important here. Morning, evening, day. The context for “day” is clearly presented, by “morning and evening”. So I’m not hesitant to subscribe to my confession at all in the matter of 6-day creationism.

The genealogies provide a reliable chronological line that ruins any assertions of an old man, for the people are the concern of the genealogies, not the earth. Granted, there is a link between people and events in history and areas of the earth, etc., but, again, the primary purpose of genealogies are to show who lived when and from what persons they came. And, you seemed to have missed what I said about time itself being created during the creation account, and how there are countless assumptions about the time-space continuum that we bring to the table when making arguments about time and creation.

Well, for the first point, obviously I agree. That’s really not the point of an OEC, however – a TE, yes, but not an OEC. As for the second – of course people are the focus of genealogies – but the chapter in question is what is the *foundation for* those genealogies. Which really points out the central reason I’m writing this. My concern is for two things. First, whether or not we are examining this with Biblical presuppositions. Second, whether or not we are *truly defending Christianity as a system*, or “as a unit” – NOT in “block house” fashion. My concern is that we are *overlooking* the presuppositions that OEC brings to Scripture, as well as *failing to see* the presuppositions *in* Scripture at this very point. As to the time issue – I think the above also solves that issue. We’re talking days. Evening, morning. Day. God created time, obviously, but finitude requires it – so, as creation begins, time, at that instant, begins.

The next section is where the rubber hits the road for me.

But I challenge you and other Christians to think more clearly about what is more significant; the war we wage is not the age of the earth because there’s no clear, direct line being crossed. Not only is the science under debate, but the Christians of the OT and NT would be rather baffled about how the age of the universe is so central to defending the faith. But, they would, however, give birth to a royal conniption if someone told them “man came from animals and they’re still made in God’s image.”

I would disagree on several points here. First, we’re being given a choice – the age of the earth, or man came from animals, and they’re still made in God’s image. Second, we are told there is no clear line being crossed. Third, I haven’t mentioned a word about science yet, in my response. Fourth, this is a modern debate in this particular context.

First: Is it our goal, as Covenantal Apologists, to argue on this level? Don’t we have to look at the *presuppositions underlying the assertion*? Here’s the deal – and this is where I want the reader to pay attention, if they’ve been on cruise control thus far. The underlying presupposition of *both* Theistic Evolution and Old Earth Creationism is that autonomous man is the primary authority on matters of empirical/natural science. There is no reason that I can see to assert an old earth, whatsoever, apart from naturalistic assumptions. The same assumptions, I’d assert, that are *more consistently* applied by the TE advocate, and even more consistently by a secular naturalist. The assertion is human autonomy, and it regulates the pages of Scripture.

“The relation between science and Scripture is not one of synthesis between two tentative theories; rather, it must be one of subordination. If science is not subordinate of Scripture, then Scripture must be subordinate to science and science itself will be autonomous. If science is independent of revelation, then nature must be assumed to be self-sufficient and containing in itself the principles for its own interpretation. Thus God is either identified with nature (the error of pantheism) or is shoved out of the picture altogether (the practical result of deism). Either God is God, or science deifies itself.”

~Greg Bahnsen

While Van Til notes, of course, that unbelievers are “in principle” autonomous, while believers “in principle” think God’s thoughts after Him; in practice, we are inconsistent. What we’re seeing here is either more or less “in practice” denial of the principles of believers – in favor of the practical adoption of autonomous principles. In this area – and remember, we defend Christianity as a unit – they have atomized their position, and are standing on enemy ground in their examination of Scripture. Since this is the case – be it severe, in the case of the unbelieving evolutionist, great, in the case of a theistic evolutionist, or small, in the case of an Old-Earther, the principle is the same. The extent of consistency to be found is the difference we see here.

Second, the line is clear, and has been crossed. The line, however, is not the age of the earth, it is the dividing line between man’s theology and God’s. In one case, we are affirming that the earth is relatively young, because we have the history of that relatively young earth in our hands, in the Scriptures. In the second, we have naturalistic principles being used as the “colored glasses” through which we see the world. We have God as center, and we have man as center – I would respectfully submit that the central issue is one of presupposition – and that brings OEC into a light other than that presented in this article.

Third, the problem is the naturalistic assumptions which underpin the desire of the OEC advocates to *adhere to this stance in the first place*. The desire is, as Bahnsen pointed out earlier, to “synthesize” science and Scripture. What ends up happening, however, is that Scripture is *subordinated to* science. This is, as I’ve pointed out, the *same presuppositional issue* found in TE. The difference is in their level of consistency.

Fourth, would Jamin make this same argument concerning the ECFs not addressing later controversies? Since this is a modern argument, we won’t find it addressed in history in the context we are in today. Every generation has it’s own apologetic context in which it has to give an answer – and, as I’ve argued, the central issue is *the* central issue of our apologetic and the theology from which it springs – who God is, and what He has revealed about Himself and His creation. Is our view on this subject God-centered or man-centered? A subject similar was addressed by Augustine, as has been argued ad nauseum elsewhere thus won’t be detailed here, but it was not the same context at all.

And that is, indeed, the true line that is being crossed with theistic evolution, and as such, it is where our attention should be directed. The BioLogos forum needs to be held accountable not for their standard evolutionary view of the age of the earth, but for their anti-Christian view of God’s images. Even though some more popular apologists, thinkers, and Christians are finally waking up to the sheer absurdity of this primary thesis of BioLogos, I am still surprised more Christians aren’t as upset and aren’t more proactive in trying to set up a moderated debate with someone from the BioLogos Forum over this issue.

Here’s where I’d like to point out that the line being set is a bit arbitrary. I agree that the problem is not the age of the earth – but once again, I think this article has mistaken the correct focus of the debate. It is not on the age of the earth – but on the presuppositions underlying our position on the age of the earth. The image of God in man is our point of contact with the believer, yes? Well, since when are we saying it’s satisfactory to give into the presupposition that naturalism can be the interpretive grid by which we exegete Scripture? The extent of consistency to that position is less than the TE would go, true – but is it not the same presupposition? When we say that man’s autonomy, presuppositionally, is the root – we can, to some extent, “prioritize” – but I don’t see the root issue as anything other than the same root issue of Arminianism, evidentialism, or other topics we’re more than happy to address, and spend a great deal of time in so doing. Van Til, as I’m sure Jamin knows, spent an extensive amount of time tracing down autonomy as the root for a great number of issues – and this fits that pattern like a glove.

Here’s a great illustration from Van Til. If they are, as I claim, embracing autonomy on this point – “…the… apologist would not be in a position to wipe out any of the signs that point in the wrong direction. An… apologist meeting the natural man as both stop at one of the service stations is in a strange predicament. Since he is a Christian, he should really speak to the natural man about the fact that he is following the wrong signs. But since he himself holds to a measure of autonomy for man, and since this undermines his own belief in creation, he can at best say to his friend that is it doubtful which signs are right. Then as far as his “neutral” apologetic method is concerned, … in the interest of getting his friend to go in the right direction, admits that the signs that point in the wrong direction are right. He himself goes in the wrong direction for some distance too with the natural man. He fully agrees with the natural man when together they start on their wrong course, and he still fully agrees on the way to the city of destruction. Then suddenly he puts on the brakes and turns around, expecting his friend will do the same. Thus in the whole business he has dishonored his God (a) by practically admitting that his revelation is not plain and (b) by himself running away from God in his interpretation of natural revelation and in his subjection of supernatural revelation to the illegitimate requirements of the natural man.” (Defense of the Faith, pg 135)

Just to note something interesting – and a bit providential – just moments before the link to this posted in #pros, I was reading an article on Justin Taylor’s blog touting Tim Keller’s “Reason for God” DVD. Nic had posted a comment related to whether or not something Dr. Keller said in that trailer was a violation of the myth of neutrality. We were discussing that issue, and I was posting a comment to Dr. Keller right then. Like you, I would be glad to see a debate with BioLogos – but I’d also like to see a more presuppositional tack – and heat – applied to the OEC position, as well. He replied, incidentally, and my response was to ask him whether his naturalistic presuppositions were capable of providing him a consistent position from which to defend.

While I understand your approach to priority, I disagree with the emphasis. I’m concerned with the presuppositions they are bringing to the table by embracing OEC; since, as I’ve argued, they are the *same* presuppositions the naturalist, be they secular or theistic, bring to the table. As you and I both know, inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument – my intent here was to point out that the same root issue is beneath OEC that is under Arminianism, Roman Catholicism, Evidentialism, and a host of other man-centered movements and positions – autonomy. Thank you for your patience in looking through my response.

~RK

Addendum: I’ve had one criticism thus far, and they say about my post, “it reads like a criticism of Hubner over Old Earth creationism”. While it is, in a sense, it’s a criticism of his position concerning challenging said OEC position. The criticism is of OEC, yes – but to point out how it’s presuppositions are the same as TEs, just not taken as consistently – and that, in order to point out that it should be critiqued on the same basis as TE. Whatever view the critique’s author holds (and he doesn’t say, other than to tell us that this doesn’t apply to him), he is left with the same dilemma as always. He can say that man is old – which Jamin specifically rebuts: “The genealogies provide a reliable chronological line that ruins any assertions of an old man, for the people are the concern of the genealogies, not the earth.” Or, he can appeal to “days” not being “days” (which seems to be his tack, given this quote: “the age of mankind and the age of the earth are not the same thing”). In that case, I refer him to the confession he claims to subscribe to, which specifically states that “In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible,in the space of six days, and all very good.” I don’t see how he escapes the dilemma of subverting Scripture’s statement that creation was in 6 days, save by the presupposition of naturalistic presuppositions. He says that is not what he has – and says that he does subordinate science to Scripture – but how do you do such a thing when Scripture *says otherwise*? In any case, I note that he accedes to my argument, as stated, and as directed. “For those Old Earth creationists who do this (and I think that the majority of them do; e.g., Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe), the criticism Whipps raises is spot on.”

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