Why Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Found some humdingers asserted by a young man on a friend’s wall recently, that while not really needing a response due to their falsity, are at least helpful to address.

The initial status update states:

People often say, “Trust in yourself, believe in yourself.” Well, God says I’m a fool. Would you trust a fool? I wouldn’t…

The unbelieving young man’s response is to say this:

Would you trust someone who belittles you and says things that are simply falsehoods?

Note a couple things. First, the complete and utter lack of argumentation offered for the assertions. Second, the use of “simply”, as if there isn’t a need for proof to be offered. Why on earth does he imagine that there is no argumentation necessary for a boldfaced denial of the initial statements he is responding to? At very least, I’d hope he would realize that he should have one. Unfortunately, I don’t suspect this to be the case.

My response, due to the incredible unargued assertion, is to ask:

What is “belittling” about the truth?

He responds:

You have lived your own life. Not god. No one else has. Only you. You can choose to follow a religious calling. But at the end of the day the only one who got you to where you are is you. The creator may put things in your path but when all is said and done you must act upon it. Therefore we are not foolish or anything. We simply are presented with life. we must chose how to do it right. You must trust yourself for god to be able to do anything. And any god that considers you a fool, a sheep, or any number of things, is not worthy of my love. It’s a falsehood that we are foolish. There are stupid people, but only foolish mistakes. Not foolish people. Does a mistake make one foolish?

Amazingly, he considers this response sufficient. I think not. First, what reason are we given to consider “living your own life” to be relevant? Second, how are we supposed to connect “therefore”, prior to “we are not foolish or anything” with either “the only one who got you to where you are is you” or “you must act upon it”? What is the “therefore” there for? We aren’t told. Third, we are told that we are “simply” presented with life – we must (choose) how to do it right. Presumably, it seems, also choose what right is? If I recall, that is what Adam and Eve’s initial sin amounts to. Why this is supposedly an objection to the Christian position, we are not told. Fourth, we are told that we *must* trust ourselves in order for god to do anything. A strange sort of “god” that he has in mind, by any accounting. Even more puzzling, however, is that we are told “any” god that considers us a fool, a sheep (or any number of things – does that include ‘a person”, incidentally? I mean, we wouldn’t want to offend this interestingly capricious fiction, now would we?) is – catch this – not worthy of his love. Well, now that we’ve established that humanity gets to decide what is worthy or not, thus turning the concept of “god” utterly on its head, we see what the real issue is, don’t we? He goes further in his redefinition of… well, everything he encounters. It is (why, we aren’t told) falsehood that we are foolish. Really? Says who? There are stupid people (granted), but only foolish mistakes. Forget that he’s directly contradicting the Scriptural witness – it’s just the way he says. Because he says so. At least, we aren’t given any other reason, as far as I can tell. There not any foolish people. Are we told why? he asks, finally, “Does a mistake make one foolish?” Who on earth said that, and why on earth would someone ask such a silly question? It puzzles me.

I responded to him in a comment, but since nothing he said was in any way (even remotely) related to what I said, I’m not going to bother repeating my comment here.

His next reply was as follows – and here’s where it starts going off the rails badly.

Your god is not my Shepard.

Given that there’s no such thing as a “Shepard”, I’d hope not. But more seriously, if he had actually read the Bible cover to cover, like he claims later, he’d know that he is a goat, not a sheep, hence “shepherd” hardly applies to him in any case. Does he think it does? It seems like it.

I am a pagan and I am proud of it.

Pagan comes from the word “paganus” in Latin – it means “rustic”, or “country-dweller”, ironically. It later became a pejorative, but is hardly descriptive of what he is, in either case. Technically, he is someone who acts μωραίνω – foolishly. First, because he is, in fact, ignorant – and proud of his ignorance. Secondly, because he denies what he knows – and Scripture calls that man a fool.

The christian god needs constant unwavering devotion or he will cast you into a lake of fire for all eternity.

Not exactly. He wants moral perfection in all regards, including, and most importantly towards Himself – which is the devotion that is due Him.

Some loving father in heaven if you ask me…

Were you under the impression that He loves you the same as He loves His people? I don’t believe that, and Christianity doesn’t teach that. Deformations of Christianity teach that, but they are heresies of various degrees. Hence, it goes to show that our putative scholar might want to re-examine the level of his Scriptural knowledge.

The only one capable of living your life is you.

While gratifyingly bumper-sticker worthy, and perhaps even worthy of an Ayn Rand cameo, what does this have to do with anything? We aren’t told.

Why trust that to a deity that will throw you into the pit without hesitation?

I’m sorry, aren’t you mixing pronouns? God doesn’t throw his children into the pit at all, let alone without hesitation. You’re the one who needs to worry about that. Nobody expects you to trust Him, after all. You’re a self-professed unbeliever, and self-professedly rebellious towards God, and believe that you determine 1) What is right and wrong 2) Whether God is right or wrong. Remind me again why I should believe I’m under the same condemnation as you are, when the Bible teaches otherwise?

You wouldn’t trust a fool, and I would not trust a lord that will cast me to the devil for questioning.

First, no I wouldn’t. You are right. So why should I trust you? Secondly, where on EARTH do you get the idea that the devil has anything to do with questioning, or of the administration of the lake of fire, as seems to be your implication? Do you get your Christian doctrines from Looney Tunes, or the Bible? If it’s the former, you could say that the devil “reigns” in Hell, but not from the Bible. Hell is where Satan is cast along with every other sinner, per the Bible.

As to god giving you your life and determining every point, that would be contrary to all forms of freewill…

No, just ones that define “freedom” like a toddler does. Where they get to do “whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.” No, the Bible quite clearly states that there is no such thing, nor should there be, in a world with a sovereign Creator. Why this objection is supposed to impress anyone, I haven’t the foggiest. Were you under the impression that “free will” in the sense that most unbelievers affirm was an orthodox Christian doctrine?

That would make you no more than a puppet. A toy to be discarded at the earliest convenience.

A common claim, but with no argument provided – leaving us with yet another unargued assertion. Seemingly no knowledge of the mountains of material written on the subject, either. Just as an assignment – what did Luther claim was the hinge on which the entire Reformation turned? What was the debate between Augustine and Pelagius about? Inquiring minds want to know.

You call me rebellious? I am. I respect and worship the creator, but I do not follow blindly

Yes, you are. No, you neither respect or worship Him, because you refuse to accept Him as He is, and try to usurp His throne at every point. You don’t follow at all, let alone blindly.

After this… interesting… exposition of Christian doctrine, I replied again, as follows:

1) You seem to be under several misapprehensions about basic Christian doctrine. 2) You return to your misapprehensions at every point, thus causing a disconnect with the reality of this position on each and every point. 3) Since this is the case, you are objecting to a straw man – which, although it burns quite merrily, does no damage to the actual position you seek to address.

His reply was this:

Alright tell me specifically, where I am wrong. I’m that obnoxious type of pagan that has read the bible cover to cover. I don’t really object to the ideas or the doctrines. What I have a problem with is people who post a status like this or who try to make converts of all of us. They are so unlike their great teacher. I also would like to address the fact that by worshiping god you are infact guilty of the same thing that he cast lucifer into the pit for. He loved god too much to obey him in his orders to the angels to worship man. If he cast his most beautiful angel in heaven in the lake of fire for insisting upon worshiping him, why wouldn’t he to you.

For someone who has read the Bible “cover to cover”, he didn’t seem to have grasped much of it, if he makes such major errors. It is also hard to imagine that he doesn’t “really object to the ideas or the doctrines” when that seems to have been the entirety of his putative objections thus far. Of course, they are objections to doctrines that only exist in his imagination, for the most part, but it still doesn’t make much sense to say this. What else would you be objecting to, anyway?

I also find it rather amazing that his next sense is an objection to the doctrine of… the Gospel. You know, trying to convert people? By telling them what the Bible says? I mean, it’s sort of hard not to laugh when you see someone contradict themselves so blatantly. Especially when you follow that with the assertion that… this is “unlike their great teacher”. If I didn’t have reason to believe this was serious, I’d be having a good laugh. As it stands, I’m just wondering where he “learned” Christian doctrine from. That’s… not even remotely accurate. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t say why this is the case. Again.

The next bit is truly weird. He claims to have read the Bible cover to cover.. but then claims that God 1) Has already cast Satan into the pit (He hasn’t) 2) Did so for NOT worshiping MAN (This is.. so unbelievably wrong that it makes my head hurt.) 3) Insists that Satan was cast into Hell for… worshiping God, rather than for trying to… usurp God’s place as the one worshiped, as the Bible says. What Bible did he read? I’m really wondering, now. It’s just crazy. But, of course, what do we know about Christianity? We’re only Christians who study the doctrine and theology of our own Scripture. What could we possibly know?

Truly amazing, the things you read on facebook.

For days, the blogs and facebook statuses have been replete with pro and anti Prop 26 messages. What I haven’t seen from the anti side, however, is much of anything that isn’t a Slippery Slope fallacy.

The common refrain is that this proposition will *likely* lead to the banning of abortion, IVF treatments, stem cell research, and human cloning. It will keep women from receiving chemo while pregnant, deny them treatment in case of ectopic pregancies or other life-threatening pregnancy problems, “most” birth control options will be removed, that if a woman’s miscarriage is “suspicious” they will be subject to investigation,in vitro fertilization will almost certainly be regulated and priced out of existence, the State should force a pregnant woman to carry a dying fetus until it miscarries naturally, victims of rape (including the mentally disabled and girls as young as 8 ) should be forced by the State to carry and give birth to their rapists’ babies, that there will be additional thousands of babies brought to term and in foster care. That’s a selection.

The problem with all this being; it’s a fallacious argument. Namely, the Slippery slope fallacy. This fallacy is presented in this form:
Event X has occurred (or will or might occur).
Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.

Unfortunately, there is no argument typically given for *why* this will inevitably happen. More often, the wilder the claim concerning what will occur, the better. For instance, I read on a forum that this means “reproductive rights are being stripped away right before my very eyes.” Followed shortly after by another saying that the passage of this bill will make us “a country that reduces women to incubators.” Such rhetorical silliness is truly amazing, but it gets better. A woman wonders what the “future would hold in a country where abortions & birth control are illegal, and a woman is a second-class citizen compared to the fetus she carries.” One opines that women will be “required to go through inquests when they have miscarriages to determine if they were somehow at fault for “murdering” their fetus.” This is the kicker: “Do you not realize this is the first step to taking away freedom? What’s next? Your freedom to religion? Speech? To vaccinate your kids or not? Its a slippery slope.” That’s a fallacy, folks. There’s no argument for why this is the case. It’s just stating that it is the case. X, therefore y – no intervening premise.

Is there a good reason not to vote for Prop 26? Yes, actually. Because it’s considered by some to be unconstitutional. Does that mean it isn’t right? No. That’s the best argument I have seen on the matter, bar none. However, there are arguments on the other side, as well. It is not a *direct* ballot initiative – it requires legislature review. It was presented to the MS legislature early this year. Hence, the counter-argument goes, the constitution is speaking of direct initiatives. As this was reviewed by the state legislature, it does not fall under that purview. Clear as mud? Good! That will likely be the “best bet” of the folks arguing against this, if it gets adopted – but we’ll see how far they get. That, however, is just my opinion on the matter. I’m also not sure they have any federal appeal in this instance, as it’s an article of a *state* constitution.

Here’s the argument: The State Constitution says that “(5) The initiative process shall not be used: (a) For the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the Bill of Rights of this Constitution”
This initiative specifically states that it is amending Article III (the Bill of Rights, in the MS Constitution).
Therefore, the initiative is unconstitutional.

However, there are a couple ways to go, here. The first is that this isn’t a modification, addition, or repeal – but a clarification. The second is that since it was an indirect initiative, and under the supervision of the state legislature, that it doesn’t qualify under that heading. I don’t know how far that one goes, but that’s one response I’ve seen. I’m sure there are others, but there are two quick outlines.

I have yet to see an objection, save the objection of it’s illegality, that is not a slippery slope fallacy. Saying what you *think* will happen in the future is something else altogether than making a logical argument. It’s simply stating your opinion on the matter of it’s eventual result. On the contrary, I can pretty clearly tell you what it does prohibit. 1) Abortion 2) The intentional destruction of any fertilized embryo 3) Human clones being considered “non-persons” in such an eventuality 4) Killing unborn children with the “morning after” pill. This is in terms of how it defines a person; the language used, not my feelings concerning it. This is always a tough thing to do – look at an issue from the standpoint of it’s logical implications, not it’s emotional ones. Logically, murder is of a person. If a person is a fertilized embryo, then destruction of a fertilized embryo is, therefore, murder. Abortion, obviously, is murder – as is the use of the “morning after” pill. These are all issues that have surrounded the pro-life movement for the last couple decades. There should be no surprise from anyone to see the oft-discussed logical implications in other areas besides abortion.

Does this mean we will be faced with some tough choices? Sure, it does. Does it also mean that we’ll have to be ethical in terms of unborn children in a similar fashion to the way that we have to be in the case of adult or infant persons in the case of triage situations? Yes. Is there established law in these cases? Yes, there is. Saying that there isn’t is simply just untrue. Putting an unborn child on a “level playing field” with a child a matter of months older is nothing more than being consistent. What is at issue is establishing, legally, what a person is. Using rhetorical tricks such as were outlined above is, simply, beneath us. Thinking logically about these sorts of issues is what we should be doing, not making emotionally laden accusations without anything more than speculation to go on. It is not “mean”, or “condescending” to point out that an argument is fallacious. In fact, we should welcome such criticism, if it helps us think more clearly about the issue.

Since I am a Christian, let me clearly state my position. I believe that life begins at conception. This is not a slogan, but a Biblically exegeted position, culled and exposited from Scripture. This means that we are making a point of *principle*, and applying those principles to the world around us, as we all do with our principles. In the case of this position, it is exposited from the story of Samson, in Judges 13. His mother was promised a son, after having been barren for many years. She was told that this child would be dedicated to God – a vow called the “Nazarite” vow, discussed previously on this blog. She is told 1) That she *will* conceive. 2) She is told to be careful not to eat anything unclean, or to drink any wine (things forbidden by the vow) – starting now (vs 7). 3) The child is dedicated from when? From the womb. With conception explicitly mentioned, and all things related to this vow were to be put in effect, as of now, in order to ensure there was no violation. If the point at which we are concerned is not conception, then what shall we say it is? There is also the witness of John’s recognition of Christ “from the womb”, and being filled with the Holy Spirit “from the womb.” There is David’s testimony that God knit him together in his mother’s womb(Psa 139), and God’s concern for him there. There is the recognition of a spiritual state, even while in the womb, in Psalm 51. I also note Stott’s words on Psalm 139; “The psalmist surveys his life in four stages: Past, present, future, and before birth, and in all four refers to himself as ‘I.’ He who is writing as a full-grown man has the same personal identity as the fetus in his mother’s womb.”

Not only that, but human life is just as valuable in the womb, as it is outside of it. Shedding of innocent blood is often remarked on, in Scripture. This, incidentally, does not mean “innocent” as in “sinless”, but “innocent” as in “unworthy of being slain.” In Gen 9, we are told that whoever sheds the blood of man, by man will his blood be shed; but this is because man is created in the image of God. The doctrine of the imago dei is far-reaching, and central to why we take the position we do. We know when life is considered to start; and we believe that the image of God is intrinsic to the life of His human creatures. As such, they are the imago dei from the very beginning. In Exodus 21, we are told that even causing a woman to give birth prematurely (even though there is no lasting harm) is worthy of the husband choosing what to fine the guilty party. Directly after, we are told that any harm is to be met with life for life, etc. This is very plain. The unborn child is considered to be human life on equal footing with the adult. Just the potential of harm, in carelessness, is worthy of punishment, because they endangered a child. Proverbs 24:11-12 commands us to deliver the innocents from slaughter. (This verse is often cited in relation to the Holocaust, as well.) Deu 27:25 states that the one who accepts money to kill the innocent is cursed. In Amos 1:13, killing unborn children is cited as a sin. In 2 Sam 4:11, David tells men who killed Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, in his bed, that that deed was worthy of them being blotted from the earth. How much more, if children in the womb are being killed in the only bed they know?

In the case of rape; are children to be held accountable for the sins of their fathers, contra Deut 24:16? Do they deserve death? In the case of “freedom”, are we allowed to use that a covering for sin, contra 1Pe 2:16? Are we to kill the disabled, rather than care for them, contra Lev 19:14? Third, a woman’s body “belongs” to her no more than a man’s does. We belong to God. Instead of using speculative excuses for why it might not be most convenient for us were we to adopt an equitable law, it would behoove us to submit our convenience to the principles laid out in Scripture. Equity is found in just laws, not in the speculative enumeration of possible abuses or inconveniences we might face as a result. Scripture tells us that conception is when God considers life to begin. We are being given problems, but no solutions for those problems in reply. A fallacy is not excused by convenience. Immorality is likewise not excused by convenience. Even if IVF is made more expensive as they retool their procedures, for example – what is that to you, if it preserves life, and restrains evil? What else is it the government’s principal job to do? Instead of offering your personal nightmare scenarios, offer me an alternative. Further, tell me why the amendment *itself* is wrong – not why the potential consequences are wrong. There is a whole network of fallacies involved in that sort of argumentation. Speculative consequences are not a conclusion for an argument, if you don’t connect premise a to conclusion c. You can’t skip b, and call it a valid argument.

To wrap this up; if you want to offer an argument, offer us a premise b. Offer us a premise b, further, which the conclusion can be shown to follow from. Saying that y will occur if x occurs, without any reason given to think that y will occur is just simply illogical. Also, note that we are talking about something 1) Unprecedented and 2) That hasn’t yet occurred. Saying that we are speaking of “facts” in a case such as this is absurd. There are no facts to be had about the consequences of a future event. You might make an inductive case, but you have to make the case! So, please work on those arguments, boys and girls.

In About.com‘s article “Seven Reasons Why Mormons are Christian[1], Rachel Bruner offers us some interesting claims to examine.

Her Seven Reasons are as follows:
1. Christ is Head of Mormon Church
2. Faith in Jesus Christ
3. Prophets Preach of Christ
4. Scriptures Witness of Christ
5. Mormons Act in the Name of Christ
6. Holy Ghost Testifies of Christ
7. Mormons Believe in Atonement of Christ

In this series, we’ll examine each of her claims. In this post, we’ll examine some presuppositional issues, and provide some introductory comments. For reasons not given by the author, it is deemed important that the title “Christian” be applied to the LDS Church and its adherents. When we look at the very statements of Mormon statesmen, however, we find that there is no such desire to be found numbered among Christendom.

“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”” [2].

Note this; if you follow the link, you will find that Smith specifically mentions Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians as the target of these words – so, we are being informed that none of these groups are Christian – yet the article’s author is arguing that Mormonism, on the contrary, is Christian. Keep this in mind.

“The fact is that orthodox Christian views of God are Pagan rather than Christian.” [3]

If the orthodox Christian view is Pagan – what are we to believe is ‘Christian’? Further, note that anything that “Christians” consider “orthodox” is, by this definition, pagan. If so, who is determining what is Christian, and why does it seem to be exclusively unorthodox?

“The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon….” [4] “Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the “whore of Babylon” whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.” [5]

Pratt, apparently, is even more willing to throw out every putative Christian group in his sweeping statements. We are left wondering; who is left, by this point? The modern apostates and cults who self-identify as ‘Christian’? (Simply because they are too new to fall under this indictment, obviously.) Mormonism, evidently, is self-identifying itself as, if not the only, at least the best ‘Christian” group, isn’t it?

If necessary, we can delve more into these and similar statements at a later date, but this should suffice to pique our interest; why, if the elder statesmen of the LDS had these things to say about “Christendom”, do modern Mormons want to be considered “Christian”? We are also left wondering due to the explicit statement of D&C 1:30: that “this church” is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” Puzzling, to be sure.

It must also be understood that within Mormonism, there is a distinct tendency to “redefine” terms. As Dr. James White puts it, “Mormonism uses our language, our terminology, but it fills those words with utterly foreign meanings.”[6] As such, when they speak of “Jesus Christ”, it can be conclusively demonstrated that we’re not talking about the same thing we are talking about. When they speak of “God”, they are similarly not speaking of the identical “God” that we are speaking of. We are not speaking of the “atonement” they are speaking of. In short; when we are speaking of practically anything in the Christian lexicon, the Mormons have a different definition for it. When we deal with issues that they raise, we must keep this clearly in mind; we must accurately represent both what we believe, and what they believe – set them in opposition, and argue transcendentally. In doing so, we will not merely be “arguing about the facts” – we will be arguing the meaning of fact, on a presuppositional level – and able to truly compare these two worldviews in a fashion that will be decisive and clear. This we will do in the remainder of our series, Lord willing.

Next

  1. [1] About.com
  2. [2] Joseph Smith History 1:19
  3. [3] Mormon Doctrine of Deity by B.H. Roberts, p.116
  4. [4] Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, “Divine Authenticity,” no.6, p.84
  5. [5] Pratt, The Seer, p.255
  6. [6] AOMin.org

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.

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.

Atheist Forum Stupidity

Some ignorant atheist called “cofty” – apparently an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, simply hasn’t fallen far from the JW tree. Our erstwhile atheist has waxed… and waxed… and waxed… on about a variety of things of which he has little knowledge, and less discernment; but then again, what do we expect from forums, after all? Let’s take a few for instances:

(BK) Brock never argued what you said he did – he never argued that the *reason* God advocates “appalling” behavior was because God was “slightly better than the Bronze Age norm.”

(Brock quoted by cofty) Simply put, the slavery laws of Exodus 21 were nothing short of revolutionary in the ancient world where slaves were simple property with NO rights and subject to un-checked abuse, punishment and summary execution at the whim of the slave owner. The Mosaic Laws changed that and made ancient Israel a stand-out exception regarding the ethical treatment of salves. Did God condemn slavery? No. He took a widespread human… practice and regulated it for the ethical treatment of those concerned.

(cofty) So according to Brock god never did condemn the practice of one human owning another and beating them to death if necessary but he did regulate it a bit. Imagine somebody today advocating a new law that would permit slavery but with some regulations to make it “ethical”. Brock wants to have his cake and eat it. On the one hand his god is the source of objective timeless morals and on the other it is sufficient if her morals are an improvement on the culture of the time. I pointed this out to Brock on page 4 and at least twice since and have received no reply.

So, according to cofty, we have a very interesting statement by Brock. It seems to bear little, if any, resemblance to the statement Brock made, but let’s examine this. He doesn’t bother linking to where Brock said it (my guess is because it actually has a context – but what do I know?) – but I’ll link to it for you. Mind you, I’m not going to endorse the whole kit and kaboodle, but let’s get real; the only use of “condemn” in the cited reply was as follows. “Did God condemn slavery? No. He took a widespread human (you know, those homo sapiens you adore) practice and regulated it for the ethical treatment of those concerned. How unenlightened and mean spirited of Him!

This sentence has now been twisted into “god never did condemn the practice of one human owning another and beating them to death if necessary but he did regulate it a bit.” Cofty’s debate skills might be shabby, but he has a future in scarecrow manufacture.

(cofty’s terminology) Quote from: Brock on Infanticide

It was divine punishment by extermination against a people whose practices of child sacrifice were so heinous that even a jaded and brutal ancient world winced at them in disbelief.

(cofty) So in her infinite wisdom god’s way of dealing with the heinous crime of child sacrifice was to order the massacre of all the children. I have put this point to Brock a few times and got no reply.

So, of course, we have to throw in a cheap shot, calling God “her”, first off. Way to be mature. Second, notice the dripping sarcasm. In cofty’s infinite wisdom, and self-asserted moral hubris, he decides that God, by default, isn’t just, a la evilbible or other assorted purveyors of nonsensical objections. In all honestly, I really don’t give a rip what his opinion is. Let’s field his objection anyway, just for giggles. To begin with, let’s use something more emotional, since I don’t think his whinefest was emotional enough. As one of the shining knights of the sciencereasonlogic New Atheist Brigade©, his arguments are, of course, utterly emotive. No surprises there, of course; those who most stridently insist on the perfection of their logic are most prone to ignoring it altogether, after all. So let’s go one further. Let’s talk about the FLOOD. (You know, the one that didn’t happen.) No, wait, even BETTER. Sodom and Gomorrah. Those gents and ladies were simply going about their free love and happiness business, homoerotically building a culture of wonderful gay love – and here comes God and wipes them ALL out. Down to the last babe in arms! Let’s be as politically correct as we can be, shall we? So, here were those peace-loving homoerotic pillars of ANE society, wiped off the face of the earth because of who they LOVED! What horrors! What meanness! What utterly repulsive behavior by that fun-quashing stern-faced murderer deity! (And their children, of course – conceived, somehow, despite the obvious superiority of same-sex relations. They probably had fertility plants up and running then, so God is also guilty of wiping out an advanced and high technology society. Obviously. God hates science, fags, and shellfish, after all. I bet there were shellfish around. That’s just how He rolls.)

Anyway, there they were, a veritable love-in, and God rains fire and brimstone down and wipes them out! Even the babehs! Far be it from me to remind our erstwhile hysteria magnate that God hates sin, and that its wages is death; but I can’t help but wonder whether he actually tried to look at a systematic theology from anything resembling orthodox Christianity, once he escaped his cultish enslavement to the Watchtower. It would probably clear up some of the fundamental ignorance he has – but once a fundy, always a fundy. Orthodox is way harder; but I digress. So, in any case, how ever shall we answer this incredibly detailed and intricate accusation of wrongdoing against God? (Namely, that He’s a big meanie, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for believing in in such an immoral deity.)

It’s actually very simple. We 1) demonstrate that God, as He reveals Himself to be, is the one who determines morality and 2) That cofty isn’t same It really is that simple. Cofty is under the mistaken impression that a) God is even assailable by the means he employs, and b) That we are interested in his opinion on morality. I’m sure this is breaking news to everyone, but neither is the case. Cofty’s opinion on God’s justice is, of course, sinful, but hardly relevant to whether or not He is Just. Cofty’s conception of morality is so inane that it beggars description. A sinful creature presumes to judge God on the basis of God’s judgment on sinful creatures. Why would we even entertain this seriously? He can’t even exegete a Biblical text; why should we listen to him exegete morality – let alone concerning God?

So, let’s play. Cofty’s claim is, apparently, that God is immoral, because 1) He does not “condemn the practice of one human owning another and beating them to death if necessary”, 2) He commands the eradication of children along with the adults, (order the massacre of all the children) in societies He points out to His chosen instruments. (In view is Israel, of course, but let’s include His ordination of the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, his use of Assyria, and Babylon, to boot. Just to make it interesting.) Let’s let him give a few more examples, just to make it more fun, shall we?

(again, cofty’s terminology) Quote from: Brock on kidnapping and forced marriage of virgins

this passage gives rules for the ethical treatment of women taken as spoil in battle. You see, among the brilliantly descended homo sapiens of that time, the taking of women among the spoils of battle was common place, with no regulations to prohibit their abuse (rape), use as concubines (bound sex slaves), their sale into slavery or their death. The Mosaic Laws of Deuteronomy 21 changed that for ancient Israel. Contrary to your description, they were to be treated humanely. Furthermore, they were to either be taken as wives or set free.

(cofty) Again Brock’s defense of god amounts to an appeal to consider the much worse ethics of the existing culture. Again I explained this to Brock and again no reply.

So, there’s another. Let’s see what else he has on his laundry list!

(cofty’s terminology, yet again – you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity. God… you know, God Almighty… is afraid of homosexuals?) Quote from: Brock on god’s homophobia

Yes, it was permissible to stone homosexuals, but as part of the Mosaic Laws intended to enforce sexual purity among God’s people it was ALSO permissible to stone adulterers and rapists.

(cofty) I don’t even know how this was supposed to be a defense of god at all.

Because, blockhead, if God is “homophobic”, he’s also “rapistphobic” and “adultererophobic”. Do I need to use smaller words? I hope not, because “puerile” and “ignoramus” are looking pretty accurate right now. Moving on…

Quote from: Brock on genocide

spurious declarations that the population of Palestine during the Bronze Age was on the order of 14 million people, a figure no reputable secular scholar would accept today. So “biased” a source as Wikipedia (see “Palestine – Demographics”) places the population of Bronze Age Palestine at around 1 million. Other sources, which I prefer, place it at 3 million, but NO ONE (other than Josephus) today argues for anything approaching the 14 million you suggest. My point here is simple – it would help our discussion if you could get your historical facts straight.

I explained at length why the bible demands at least 14 million (as if massacring 3 million would be OK) and asked Brock to clarify if he wants to go with the historical reliability of the bible or with reputable secular scholars. He has refused to answer. It is not a minor issue. Brock claims that “ethics are what the bible says” and yet he disputes the reliability of the bible.

Quite honestly; it doesn’t matter how many were killed. It could be 20 million, for all I care – and I really don’t insofar as it’s particularly speculative on both their parts to make the arguments they’re making, in all honesty. The point is not numbers, but the morality of it. Fair enough. What I’m wondering, however, is how cofty justifies saying it’s immoral?

But let’s break off for a moment, and summarize.

Cofty’s claim is, apparently, that God is immoral, because 1) He does not “condemn the practice of one human owning another and beating them to death if necessary”, 2) He commands the eradication of children along with the adults, (“order the massacre of all the children”) in societies He points out to His chosen instruments; we will include Israel, the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God’s use of Assyria, and Babylon, to boot, just to make it interesting. 3) God ordains “kidnapping and marriage of virgins” 4) God is “homophobic” (snicker, snicker), 5) God ordains “genocide”.

Quick points, then we’ll expand them. 1) This is stupid, and inaccurate. 2) Yes, He does – what justification does cofty have for saying it’s immoral? 3) Kidnapping is an unnecessary pejorative, and contextually handled, if he’d bother to do so, and marriage is a blessing. 4) Utterly asinine. 5) It’s not about genes, dummy. It’s about culture; or they wouldn’t marry them into Israel, would they?

So, let’s use our a) and b) above to address each of these points.

1) God is “immoral” because He does not “condemn the practice of one human owning another and beating them to death if necessary.”

Quite frankly, this has always struck me as one of the stupidest arguments an unbeliever can make from Exodus 21. What do the verses prior say? Notice, if you would, the parallel between 18-19 and 20-21.

Exodus 21:18-21 – When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

First, there is death is vs.18 and death in vs.20. On the very face of it, his argument gets unhinged. *If the slave dies, there is the same penalty as if a freeman dies*. Note, this is all under the context of Exodus 21:12: “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” The “punished” refers to the punishments already outlined. There is a difference, however; in the case of 21, there was no intent to kill, by one reading, and no lasting harm done, by the other. Note: in vs.19, there is restitution paid to the one injured. In vs.21, who is the owner to pay restitution to? The one losing money is him! I read vs.21 as describing a parallel to vs.19 – no loss of life – both because of contextual and linguistic argumentation.

In any case, in vs.20, *if the slave dies from the beating* – and it’s baldly stated, “under his hand” – the master dies. I don’t think this is even questionable. There is an argument to be made that vs.21 involves death, but I don’t think it does. Additionally, cofty is utterly ignorant of what Biblical slavery was. I encourage him to look up “Jubilee” for his future exhortation – or at least to vs.2 of the same chapter you’re prooftexting. (Then, perhaps – just perhaps – he won’t advance such silliness again. I may be overly optimistic, however.) A dog does return to it’s vomit, after all – and thus is a fool.

2) He commands the eradication of children along with the adults, (“order the massacre of all the children”) in societies He points out to His chosen instruments; we will include Israel, the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God’s use of Assyria, and Babylon, to boot, just to make it interesting.

First; so what? Remember what our mothers always said? They brought us into this world… Even more so, with God. I’m very sorry if God’s sovereignty over His creatures (including you, incidentally) offends your effete little sensibilities – but why should I care if they do? If your foundation for morality were true, I’d be no more morally bound (since all is subjective, of course) to consider “do all harm” as my paramount moral duty – and just as exempt from criticism as your apparent moral code seems to be. If that offends those same effete sensibilities, again, I’m not interested. The problem is, I have no reason, whatsoever, to consider your opinions to be binding; on you, or anyone else. Whether you’ve contorted your own self-justifications sufficiently to deceive yourself or no, the fact remains that you have no reason to believe that they are the case, in any non-circular way. As such, they are purely autobiographical, and I’ll treat them as such. On the other hand, all men belong to God. He brought them into being, and He can remove them, as well. All that God does is Just, man cannot gainsay it, as man is dependent on God, and there is no court of appeal. Let’s break this down.

God, Himself, is what he is of Himself. This is called “aseity”. God is good, God is just, God is holy, and God is creator, among His many attributes, which must be considered as a whole when presuming to address Him, since God is Simple (I suggest you look this up, if you’re unfamiliar with the context – either on this blog, or in a systematic). God’s essential justice does not change, as He is unchanging. It is eternal, as He is eternal. It is omnipotent, as He is omnipotent. In short, all of who God is goes into all of what He ordains. Your opinion on the matter is less than irrelevant – it is sinful. Should you, like many, presume to challenge God – I’d like to ask you, as I’ve asked others, what right you have to do so, and on what basis you plan to do it? God, incidentally, is not impressed by your reasoning – and frankly, neither am I. (I’m not impressed by your reading comprehension, either, but that’s neither here nor there.) So, once again – what right do you have to do so, and on what basis do you plan to do it?

3) God ordains “kidnapping and marriage of virgins”

This, honestly, is quite stupid. Once again, the immediate context forbids it. WAY back in vs.16, we find this. “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Not looking good. Now, if you’d like to make some anachronistic comments concerning the nature of “kidnapping”, feel free – but it will only make it worse. The context I’m sure you meant was that of women whose husbands or fathers were killed in battle. Let me get this straight. In the “bronze age” you’re so frequently tossing about, you’re seriously saying that it’s better to send the women out to be taken by others who do not have any moral prohibitions concerning the treatment of female prisoners? Seriously? Talk about misogynistic! (Not to mention anachronistic, histrionic, emotive, and ahistorical. To say the least.) Let’s have some straight talk, bud. What the Israelites are told to do is to take responsibility for the women they widowed and/or orphaned. I know, what a wild idea, but we can always have it your way, and let the surrounding peoples have their way with them. Or, maybe, just maybe, they are to take responsibility for the women whose lives they upended, and give them a place in their families. With, I might add, a) An entire month of mourning, required by law, and b) release, with no penalties applied, if they are not willing or are not suitable to marry, and c) The requirement, by law, of humane treatment. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, due to the herculean ignorance you seem to be laboring under – but for pity’s sake, you have no idea what you’re talking about. My advice would be to stop talking. It burns.

4) God is “homophobic”

Speaking of “you need to stop talking” – this is perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. God Almighty is… seriously? Are you kidding me? Afraid, of homosexuals? Please stop talking, so I can stop laughing. This is too stupid for reddit, even. As I said above, and Brock alluded to (and you were apparently unable to grasp), if God is “homophobic”, he is also “racistphobic”, “adultererphobic” – and we can throw in “murdererphobic”. Just. Stop. Talking. Please.

5) God ordains “genocide”.

So what? God will sentence all who rebel against Him to burn in Hell forever, too. Your point is? I’m being quite serious, here. Make an argument, or shut up. Your histrionics aren’t even entertaining. They’re just dumb. Make an argument, or stop talking. Emotionalism is useless, and even more useless given the high regard atheism claims to place on logic. Tell me why I should care, so I can tell you why that argument is emotional, too – because, frankly, that’s all you’re going to have. Morality is by far the weakest atheistic subject to argue. Because arguing it destroys your basis for argumentation. By all means, try – but by all means, be prepared to fail. The comments are open, feel free to comment in accordance with the comment policy.

EDIT: So, I PM’d cofty on their forum, to let him know I posted this – he posts on their forums to tell the forum all about it. After MANY ad homs were slung my direction (and boy, do they like ad hom!), I was banned from the forum. Sahweet. Way to go, champs. As I said in that thread: There’s a reason i don’t go on forums anymore.

We're Working On It

A response was offered on facebook to my post, and I’ll respond to those comments to follow

That’s… not a very good defense, is it?

You reject me asking for proof because I don’t know how I exist?

There was quite a bit more to it than that, obviously. That is a valid argument, however.

You are right. I do not know for certain that my senses do not deceive me. I do not know if everything I have ever experienced is merely an illusion, or truly life. However, my senses are all I have to go on, and I will not reject them because of uncertainty. I often find that the most foolish of people are also the most certain, and will never make the mistake of claiming infallibility.

Some interesting comments here.

1) The options are presented as “illusion” or “truly life”, which seems to be a false dichotomy.

I’m not sure what relationship this has to my post, as I did not say anything about illusion at all, nor did I intend any relationship to be drawn from this.

2) There is discussion of sensory data deceiving – that was not part of my discussion at all.

The discussion was related to the justification we have, or do not have, for our knowledge, existence, predication, thinking, or what have you. Sensory data, of course, is interpreted, but I am talking about topics *below* and *foundational to* all discussions of sensory data interpretation. Thus, I’m not sure what this has to do with the subject.

3) There was no discussion of senses being rejected, and nothing concerning “uncertainty” as being the reason for this.

There is no discussion of uncertainty or rejection of the senses in view, so once again, I’m not sure why he is discussing it.

4) The claim is made that “certain” people are the most “foolish”.

By what standard of “foolish” is this asserted? The standard of the world’s wisdom, or of God’s wisdom? If it is from the viewpoint of the world, isn’t that the subject under dispute?

5) The author claims that he never claims infallibility.

I’m glad, as I do not do so either.

However, I have made no philosophical claims of existence. I have merely rejected your spiritual claim of existence, being no reasonably acceptable evidence has been brought forth.

By using the word “I”, one is, in fact, making a philosophical statement of existence. What I am questioning is the justification for doing so. By “merely” rejecting something, you are providing your own replacement for the thing rejected – which is what I am challenging. As the initial assertor, the burden of proof lies with him. My challenge is to his basis for even making the claim “Only a fool believes something without proof. To simplify that for you: only a fool relies on faith.”

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” — Carl Sagan

By what standards, respectively for:
a) Extraordinary
b) Require
c) Evidence

What epistemic obligation exists to obey this assertions? What duty do I have to accept the above as true? What standard of “extraordinary” is being used, and is it being assumed that I am somehow obliged to accept Sagan’s worldview, and thereby agree? By what standard of “require” am I obliged to accede to his demands? Is he asserting that there is a universal epistemic duty I am beholden to, exemplified by this statement? Which standard of “evidence” applies to what am I being told to provide, and by what standard is it considered such? Shouldn’t we deal with 1) Our disparate claims to epistemic justification 2) Our contradictory worldviews, in which evidence is likely to have different connotation, and 3) Whether or not the worldview asking for evidence has any claim over another person to begin with?

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence” — Christopher Hitchens

Once again – by whose standard? I don’t consider Hitchens’ statement to be accurate, let alone binding. Whose standard of evidence are we using? How do we know there is none?

And no, the Bible is not acceptable evidence, just as the Koran is not, nor the Vedas.

So, you insist, a priori, that I agree with you, in order to disagree with you? You do understand that I have directly asserted that the Scripture is my epistemological justification, do you not? Is this clear to you? I said, quite clearly, that the only possible precondition for knowledge, or anything else, for that matter, is the Triune God of Scripture. Yet, you have a priori rejected my claim, while ignoring the argument made on it’s behalf. Further, you have insisted that I abandon my own epistemological basis to even discuss something with you. On the contrary, I have addressed your epistemological basis, and offered an argument to show that self is an insufficient basis for your epistemology. I offered an argument, which demands an answer, not a dismissal. Yet, apparently, you can assert, without evidence – but I can’t dismiss it without evidence? It seems to me that you are the one arguing contrary to Hitchens’ maxim. Further, *by what standard* is the Bible unacceptable evidence? Says you? Well, by your standard (and this is an internal critique here) I can just as easily say “says me, the Bible is sufficient”, and that is an equally valid claim – by your own standard. Now, back to my worldview, I gave several reasons why the Scripture is sufficient. Please deal with those.

My response in the comment thread:

But you are? Your self is? Any particular person is sufficient personal awesomesauce to impose his subjective opinion of anything whatsoever on anyone whatsoever, and his personal opinion is such as is sufficient for being believed? You don’t have a claim to induction, either, as per Hume, so your sense experience is not reliable – which is why I included it. I “merely” reject all of your subjective non-claims, because they are made by a non-being, by your own non-standards. There is no such thing as evidence, there is no such thing as acceptable, as we are disparate beings, with no objective standard to conform our opinions to. There is no ordinary, and there is no extraordinary. There is no grounds by which to reject, or to affirm. You cannot claim infallibility, or fallibility, because everything is subjective.

There are no brute facts. Facts are interpreted a priori, and your interpretative ability, by your own (subjective) standard, is what is being called into question.

In fact, by your own standard – there is no such thing as a fool, because there is no such thing as truth.

His reply:

And we may very well be constructs in the Matrix. However, I generally do not find this to be a reliably found solution. Not having a “claim to induction” does not make my senses unreliable.

Perhaps I should clarify here – I said “sense experience” above – and what I was referring to was the concept that sense experience is contributory to knowledge. The problem of induction is that we have no justification for our expectation that the future will be like the past. Since this is so, we have no justification for assuming that what we experience via the senses is actually a means to acquire knowledge.

There are facts. Facts are what happened. If a blue fish is blue, it is blue. It *probably* reflects electromagnetic wavelengths with around a 450 nm wavelength, if you want to get technical.

Now, how people interpret these facts is where things can go wrong. We could just assume we ARE in fact in the Matrix, and go about our lives. We could just assume we are in the blue fishes mind in the last example, and we are imagining ourselves look at the blue fish.

We could also realize that this isn’t anything we have brought up at all. For some reason, he seems to want to go back to “the Matrix”, or some similarly absurd counter example, when in fact the objection is related to epistemology, not sense-reliability. We are not talking about the relationship of sense to illusion, or sense to deception. We are talking about the relationship of sense to knowledge. Since induction is unjustified in the unbelieving worldview, there is no justification for *using* it – and it is irrational to do that which is unjustified. Not only that, but there is no relationship that *can* be made between past and future!

These aren’t useful speculations, though. These have no evidence (Such as being able to see the blue fish, to weigh it, to make various measurements of it. These are useful abilities, which often make very good evidence for things).

But, no. Don’t twist what I say into something you want it to be. I’m sure you can take whatever you want and make it sound foolish, but doing that doesn’t actually make the original idea foolish.

The problem is, all of the things listed above *have no justification from your own worldview*. That is why I brought it up. You cannot assume a constant system of measurement. You cannot assume that things remain uniform. You cannot assume “use” is something that has tenacity for day to day. All of these things – and basically all of human thinking whatsoever – are utterly destroyed by the lack of a justified induction.

My response in the comments:

Or, the fact that your worldview can’t account for induction, deduction, or even the slightest portion of your everyday experience means that your worldview is what is at issue. Note: I’m not saying induction has no explanation – I’m saying *you* don’t have one. I’m not saying existence has no explanation – I’m saying *you* don’t have one. An argument from silence does not give the preconditions of intelligibility. What you have offered is not an explanation, but seems very much to be wishful thinking, while I, on the other hand, gave a thumbnail sketch of my epistemological basis for all of the above. If your worldview can’t account for that which you say gives you knowledge, what good is it?

I found his next set of comments very illustrative. They are posted to follow.

And now you’ve shown that you don’t actually understand my position. Great job.

No, I do not have an answer. To quote Dawkins, “We’re working on it.”

So, here we are given the quintessential unbelieving answer for this problem: “I don’t know, but we will!” I’m sorry, but isn’t this a bit more of a problem than that, as we’ve already illustrated? I’ve coined this as “the argument from optimism” previously, and it seems so very apropos. The unbelieving worldview has no answer for what knowledge is, how induction is justified, how immaterials such as concepts exist, the source and nature of logical laws, the relation between facts, how the one and the many problem is solved, the mind-body relationship, not to mention the dilemma posed by a subjectivist observer claiming to know objective truths. “We’re working on it”? Well, it’s been 3 or 4 centuries. Let us know how it’s working for you, skeptics.

You are taking an argument from ignorance.
…”Because we don’t know something, it had to be *this thing I want to believe*.”

You have no real evidence. You just seem to have taken a liking to one of the many, many religious texts there have been in history that claims to know.

I’d like to know what, in this long string of assertions, is factual. I’d also like to know what in this string would accord with even his definition of evidence. They are naked assertions, inconvenienced by any real relationship to my position.

I will gladly take my “I don’t know yet.” I will gladly try and figure out how it happened. I will come up with theories on what has happened, and I will test them. I will improve, them, change them when new evidence comes along. I will make them the best I can.

I will gladly let you, when you justify the things that allow you to make conclusions, or prove anything, about anything. Since that is what is being questioned, and we are being told “I don’t know” concerning, on what basis are we to do anything save ask, yet again, whether we are to be given any basis for what you claim to have no answer to justify, but irrationally claim to be utilizing?

You will take your book. You will claim it to be infallible. You will never change your ideas, even in the face of contradicting evidence. You will sink like a stone.

I’ve yet to see the standard by which (whatever it is) is claimed to be evidence, let alone why we should accept it.

*Note: The “I” and “You” are merely representative of our different arguments, not each other*

Noted.

To reiterate, I’m fine with “We’re working on it.” Your thumbnail sketch hold no bearing without evidence.

Your “evidence” is both meaningless and irrational, holding the worldview you do, until demonstrated otherwise. I’d be fine with an answer, instead of “pie in the sky, by and by”. As Greg Bahnsen used to say – “that is the problem with you atheists, you live too much by faith.” I think it applies here. Ironic.

My answer in the comment section:

Evidence by what standard of evidence? Saying “we don’t know, but we know you’re wrong” is… more than bit contradictory? If you have no basis for sense experience’s reliability or intelligibility, how can you then use that to critique… anything?

If you don’t have a basis for induction, why should I give the results of it any validity to critique my worldview? Further, if you don’t have a basis on which to assert that your interpretation of data results in incontrovertible “facts” – why should I accept your assertions? Even further, if you can’t explain the existence of concepts such as the laws of logic, by your own standard, why should I grant you the valid use of them, and not assert that you are borrowing from my worldview to use them, and as such, are using them wrongly?

His reply:

Look, I’ll believe you when you prove it. I didn’t say, “I don’t know, but I know you’re wrong.” I said, “I don’t know, figure it out and show me how.”

That is the sense of our entire conversation. “I don’t need to know that I’m rational to say you’re a fool”. On the contrary, I say you do.

Look at it this way. We’re driving in a truck. We’re both thinking, “I wonder how this truck works?” You provide a “thumbnail sketch” of how you think it works, and I decide that I want to look inside of it before I decide. I have no reason to believe you until I know you are right. I don’t currently know; this doesn’t make you right, and it doesn’t make my curiosity wrong.

See, being right is not a conditional on whether or not you check. If I give the right answer, I’m right whether or not you check. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong whether or not you check. However, once again, only within my worldview, not yours, because your worldview doesn’t provide the preconditions for that conversation to be intelligible, despite the fact that you’re having it. Therefore, having said precondition, whose worldview are you borrowing from, to object to it? As Van Til says, “Antitheism presupposes theism” – and this is the reason he said that.

And yes, I can still think you’re foolish for being pleased with your own answer, even though you don’t rightly know.

By what standard? That’s what inquiring minds needs to know.

My reply in the comments:

I’m making a specific argument here. The proof I am offering is that without the Triune God of Scripture you can’t prove anything. Proof via the impossibility of the contrary. Thus far, your argument has given precisely that. “We’re working on it” singularly fails to impress me as factual, especially coming from Dawkins, who is otherwise so impressed with factuality. His problem, and yours, is that most folks fail to study the epistemology of science, and have failed to do so for an inordinate amount of time. If scientists were still natural philosophers, as they used to be called, perhaps they would pay more attention to the foundations of their claims.

When the emperor has no clothes, I’m going to point it out. Induction – trusting the future to be like the past, has *no basis in your worldview*. Deduction – causal relationships of one to another – has no basis in your worldview. Therefore, sense experience is intrinsically unreliable, and unaccounted for. Until it is, you can’t begin to critique another worldview, let alone advance your own.

His reply:

You see, the only thing I’m assuming is that my senses are accurate. You are assuming that your book is accurate as well. I can very easily write a novel that claims proof of existence. It’s not very hard to do.

So, you are claiming the accuracy of your senses are your epistemological justification? How would that work, as an argument, using the senses, interpreted by the mind, as the justification for being able to think? “My senses are accurate, so I can think”? If you’re talking about empiricism, I think you’re confused as to the level I’m arguing on. This is prior to, and precedes any talk of *what* we consider knowledge.

As to the “write a book to prove existence” – I’m making a serious argument. Please be good enough to offer something substantive, rather than sophmoric. Thanks.

Can you prove it? What undeniable proof– outside of the bible– do you have? Wouldn’t, if it were true, it have so much more evidence? Just the fact that it is a religion’s holy book doesn’t make it valid. Islam has a holy book. Muslims claim that Allah is their reason for existence in the same way you claim your God is.

1) Prove it – by what standard? I don’t assume we have the same standard of proof, and you shouldn’t either. We espouse antithetical worldviews – and as such, will necessarily have different standards. How is your standard of proof – which I’ve already argued you don’t have, in any intelligible sense – applicable to me? This is what I mean when I tell people they are making unargued assertions. Is it clear, by now, that you are asking me to provide that which I’ve already demonstrated you can’t even process, by your own worldview? When I make the case that you *cannot prove anything at all apart from the Triune God of Scripture* – that doesn’t mean you say “so prove it by my standards!” That means *give me a standard at all, and then we’ll talk*. If even induction is unjustified, you have no schema by which proof *can* be considered, let alone considered valid.

2) Undeniable? By what standard? Mine or yours?

3) Outside the Bible? Didn’t I already say that outside of the Biblical worldview, you can’t prove anything? Weren’t you paying attention when I said that? I wasn’t saying it rhetorically – that’s why it came accompanied by an argument. Since the unbelieving worldview cannot justify knowledge, or proof, and the Christian worldview can, the only proofs offered are those *from* the Christian worldview. So I’m not very well going to argue as an unbeliever.

4) Sure, there’s evidence. In fact, every fact whatsoever is evidence for the God of Scripture. But by whose standard? This is an argument that attacks *whether* you can know anything – so asking me to give you stuff you can know *by that impossible standard* isn’t very helpful. I don’t think you’ve grasped the nature of the argument. I’m saying that only BY my standard CAN you know anything – and your claims to the contrary are self-deceptive assertions with no basis in reality.

5) Muslims do not argue as I do. How do I know? Because I debate Muslims, as well. They have no counterpart to this argument whatsoever.

Which one am I to believe? Ooh, I know!

The one that is predominant in the region I was born in!

Well, that may be true for you. I’m from Arizona, not from the Bible Belt. I didn’t grow up Reformed, I didn’t grow up with the same faith I’m in now. I didn’t grow up with this conception, although I did grow up in a Christian home, although not a Christian myself. I had an extended bout with unbelief when I was near your age, and I was saved out of it. The consistent Christian doctrinal standard I espouse was “predominant” in the 17th and 18th centuries – in England. That’s about it. What I believe is the sole provenance of my adherence to Scripture, and the consistent application of it. So, it’s hardly an unthinking and unreasoned position I am holding. It’s not something I just “adopted” one day – but something it took me years of study to come to. Forgive me, but it seems rather brash to assume so many things about someone you don’t know very well. There is a sense in which nominative Christianity is “prevalent” in the United States – the problem is, those who actually believe what the Bible says, as I do, are a significant minority of those claiming the name of Christian. You can count out Roman Catholics (I’m a Protestant in the historic sense – Calvinistic and Reformed) you can count out Unitarians, you can count out Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the greater part of the mainline denominations, as they do not hold to anything resembling historic Christianity. I’ve taught Church History, and it rather obvious that such is the case.

So, don’t assume. I’m not from around here, so you really don’t have that information accessible.

So, to sum up – my objection to your objection – is that without epistemic justification, you can’t *make* your objection. Since this is the case, by the impossibility of the contrary (ie: since it’s therefore impossible for the contrary to be true) your initial objection fails. To put it technically – for any x – any claim whatseover – y (The Christian Worldview, explicated within the Scripture) is the precondition for it’s intelligibility. Since ~y is demonstrated to be impossible, y is true, via the impossibility of the contrary, for any x.

Plus, on a side note, you’ve shown yourself to be far more reliant on faith, and with a less worthy object, than you could possibly assert I am. I at least have faith in an absolute. You have faith in a maybe someday – but we’re working on it. May I venture to say that atheism teaches us to be satisfied – not with an answer, but with a blind faith that there will be one someday?

My faith rests in the absolute, triune, revelatory, unchanging, eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, good, just, infinite, transcendent, and perfect God – in whom we all live, move, and have our being. Contrasted with “we’re working on it”? I know where I place my trust.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Facebook Atheism

“Only a fool believes something without proof. To simplify that for you: only a fool relies on faith.”

Interesting assertion.

1 Cor 2:1-5 – And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

1 Cor 2:10-14 – For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Note: The assertion of the atheist I quoted seems to be that they have something else to rest their knowledge on. They are merely making a negative epistemological claim, with no positive claim to be found, however. In fact, their claim is in accordance with the Scripture above – that our epistemological claim is foolishness to them. The reason this is so, is because it is *spiritually* discerned. On the contrary, we claim that their epistemological claims are foolishness, from the standard of our worldview. This is the antithesis that exists between the wisdom of the world, and the wisdom of God.

Here is where transcendental argument comes in. Their claim to knowledge is unintelligible from their worldview. There is no basis to assume that 1) They exist to know what they claim to know 2) That what they claim to know has any sort of intelligible relationship to anything else they claim to know 3) That their epistemological basis (self) is capable of providing the preconditions of intelligibility.

The claim “I know” (x) has a precondition – (y) the Triune God of Scripture. That is the only means by which “I know” has the preconditions of intelligibility. Only in the revelation of the Triune God in His Scripture is there is an absolute, self-sufficient, self-existent, eternal and immutable (not excluding attributes, but eliding for the sake of space – see here for more on this topic) source who can communicate with us, and gives us those preconditions. Since x is only preconditioned by y, y is true, and ~y is impossible.

Since we have this absolute, objective epistemological foundation, and the unbeliever has no foundation whatsoever to stand on, epistemologically, on what basis does “a fool rely on faith”? Self has no epistemological foundation. Self has no absolute reference. Self can’t justify self, induction, deduction, or intelligibility, for that matter. Yet, we’re told that Descartes “I think, therefore I am” is a starting point? What does “I think” assume? The consequent, “I am”. It’s circular. My existence is only made intelligible by the Triune God of Scripture. The unbeliever’s existence is made intelligible by what, by His standard? Until the unbeliever can offer me a justification for his own claims, and demonstrate that he knows what he’s denying, we can safely say that this assertion is empty rhetoric, countered by an argument with content.

Necessary Trancendental Arguments?

P1) There are no brute facts
P2) We are asserting that only by the Triune God of Scripture can we know anything properly
P3) The only argument which does not assume neutrality is a transcendental argument
C) If we are arguing any fact with an unbeliever, we must argue transcendentally – from the Impossibility of the Contrary, due to the nature of our respective presuppositions
C1) On any fact where the opponent’s view of facts does not accord with the Christian Scripture, our argument must be from the Impossibility of the Contrary

Discuss 🙂

Apologetics and the Arminian

The purpose of this post is to address a response to the above presentation, wherein presuppositional apologetics seems to be misunderstood by the author. The author’s response can be found here, but I will address most of the post, if not all, in the following article.

James White recently argued for presuppositional apologetics and against evidential apologetics. (link) He starts out with an analysis of Colossians 1:16-18, and Colossians 2:2-9, which focus on the Lordship of Christ. James White points out that the gospel is a radical claim, which unbelievers reject.

If you watched the above video (or heard the show), you’d note that Dr. White makes a specific point of not using either term until he’s made his argument. Why does he do so? To demonstrate that presuppositionalism is directly exegeted from the text of Scripture. That’s a minor note, so I’ll move on.

What caught my attention was James White’s denial that unbelievers can have ‘true knowledge’

It’s a rather open thing that Dr. White is a presuppositionalist. I’m confused as to why this would be noteworthy.

“If Jesus is who we claim He was, then He is the standard in all of human knowledge. You may be familiar with the term epistemology – the study of knowledge – how we know what we know. For so many Christians today, philosophy, history, science, epistemology, it’s all over in that realm, and Jesus is over here. That is not Biblical Christianity. Full orbed Biblical Christianity recognizes the absolute Lordship of Christ in every aspect of our lives because Christ is Lord in all of the universe and over everything because he created everything. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. That is an amazing statement – and if you’re going to defend the faith, you have to defend the whole faith, the Biblical faith – not a cut down, watered down, simplified, minimalized, just a few facts faith – try to trick someone into accepting a skeleton of Christianity, and once you get ’em in, hope you can try to convince them of the rest of it over time. That is a certain form of apologetics, but it’s not a Biblical form of apologetics.”

Also note this, this, this, this – we could go on. Just recently, he went through the Price debate, outlining his presuppositional methodology in engaging Dr. Price.

As to the denial that unbelievers can have “true knowledge” – this is merely Biblical. Pro 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – If you don’t have the beginning, how can you have the result? Pro 2:6 – “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Do unbelievers have true wisdom? From whence do they hear it? Isa 47:10 – “”You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.'” Can “I think, therefore I am” be harmonized with this? Phil. 1:9 – “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” “Real knowledge” is ‘epignosis’ – a precise, correct knowledge. What does that imply? There there is a false knowledge, correct? Not to mention Col 2, which Dr. White discussed, in detail. If all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ – how does an unbeliever find them? Note also this verse – Col 3:10. “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” – also uses epignosis. Remember who Paul is writing to. Gnostics, who claim to possess a secret knowledge. What is Paul’s response? ALL knowledge is *Christ’s.* Note also this verse: I Timothy 6:20 – “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” There is a true and false knowledge. So, when unbelievers “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” are they knowing correctly? Are they not suppressing “true knowledge” – in favor of “knowledge so-called”?

and his objection to the approach of starting from common ground between believers and unbelievers to show the reasonableness of believing in the God of the Bible and other Christian doctrines.

Honestly? There’s a very simple answer to this. The only common ground you have is God’s ground. The image of God in you both. “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” We are to act, and *think* differently from the world. If your philosophy is indistinguishable from the world, and doesn’t have at it’s heart the Scriptures of the Triune God… you’re in trouble. Big trouble.

We don’t make the Gospel “more palatable” to sinners – it’s *supposed* to be offense and foolishness to unbelievers. So is our apologetic – because we are defending *the Gospel*. It should be offensive to them, strike at the heart of their unlawful thinking, undercut the fortresses they erect against the knowledge of God, and tear them down – how? “in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.”

God makes *foolish* the wisdom of the world. His word is His voice, speaking to men – and we are to speak it boldly on His behalf. We have *no other message*, folks. If you don’t argue FROM Scripture, FROM the God who IS there, you gave up the field to start with – and you did NOT, having done all, stand. If you pretend that we’re all neutral, and we just have to present the right evidence to convince them… you’ve already failed. Unbelievers *are not reasonable*. They *suppress* the truth in unrighteousness. They have become futile in their speculations.

Since this is so, and since they *do not think as a Christian does*, they WILL reject any evidence they deem to be unsuitable – by their OWN standard. We have a different standard, and we must argue by HIS standard, not ours.

There is no neutral ground. The picture in Eph. 6 is of a soldier holding the line *he was assigned to hold*. You do NOT advance to no-man’s land and parlay. You hold the line. You don’t advance without orders, and you don’t retreat. Advancing to “common ground” is simply to isolate yourself, and invite defeat in detail. When you are in line, you are covered by the shield of the man to your right, and cover the man to your left. You *stand*. “Common ground” is only defection or an invitation to surround you.

Presuppostionalism, as I understand it, has two distinct schools of thought; the Gordon Clark camp and the Cornelius Van Til camp. Clarinan (sic) presuppositionalism is not my cup of tea, but it’s fairly innocuous. My main complaint against Clark’s presuppositionalism is that he presupposes the truth of sola scripture,

Well, here’s the deal. The author doesn’t seem to understand the nature of Clarkian “presuppositionalism”, nor it’s actual differences from Van Tillian. Allow me to quote from a book I’ve quoted a good bit from recently.

“With all due respect for these three men, (inserted: Clark, Schaeffer, Carnell) their sincerity, Christian commitment, and hard work, we must press on to see why their apologetical systems are not fully satisfactory. Although many fine points of presuppositional character can be found scattered throughout their writings, we regretfully note that their positions as a whole are inconsistent with these points. This inconsistency might might make it appear that criticisms offered below could be rebutted by retreating to the better parts of the writer under scrutiny; however, after trying to harmonize the conflicting assertions and to read them in a sympathetic spirit, I am simply unable to reconcile the major differences or eliminate the tension among them.”
~Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Part 2, Introduction, pg 135

In this recent post, wherein I quote from a nearby section of the same book, we see that Clark does not, in fact, “presuppose sola scriptura” – how can he, when he doesn’t even presuppose the Word of God AS the Word of God? This is the fundamental, bedrock principle OF presuppositional apologetics. Here is another example, in case one doesn’t convince my readers. Directly following a discussion of Clark’s comments on statements from R.G. Collingwood, Bahnsen states “In all this Clark has not made the truth of Scripture an absolute and necessary presupposition, a genuine transcendental of meaningfulness for all science, history, etc. Indeed, by contrast, one could easily be led to believe that logic per se is his transcendental rather than Scripture. Instead of the attempt to be independent of God’s Word, ‘the denial of the law of non-contradiction, or even the failure to establish it as a universal truth, was the downfall of secular philosophy.'” (Quoting Clark, The Axiom of Revelation, 64) (pg 144, PA: S&D)

Bahnsen continues in the next section, entitled “Possibility vs. Necessity.”

“God should be taken by the Christian as the source and standard of all material, as well as logical possibility; He is the one who determines all things (even the operation of the human mind and its limits). But for Clark the possibilities of human imagination and the bare possibilities dictated by formal logic have precedence to God (at least in Clark’s writings). God too seems to be drawn into an environment of ‘possibility’ (i.e., made subject to the conditions thereof); of course, then, this must also be the case for God’s Word. Instead of demanding that Barth, for example, must recognize the subordination of all thinking to God’s Word because it is our absolute, transcendental presupposition that makes intelligibility, thinking, evaluating, and meaning possible, Clark wants Barth, in considering such a subordination, not to “bluntly rule out this possibility.”

A more skeptical view of the amount of truth obtainable by experimentation, with the help of operationalism, might bring the idea of subordinationism back again within the limits of possibility. The Scripture is a better source than experimentation is for the norms of ethics and politics; perhaps there is some way to bring physics and zoology under this authority. (Clark, Karl Barth’s Theological Method, 68)

Because Clark, thus, does not take the truth of God’s Word as an absolutely essential presupposition to which all thought must (not merely possibly) be subordinated, it is not surprising that he should write, “From a logical standpoint it is equal whether one’s assumptions are philosophical or theological, Christian or not.” (Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 8) This is not the case! Cristianity and unbelief are not on an equal footing, for unbelief has no fotting whatsoever. And even logical possibility cannot be a common background to Christian and pagan systems of thought, for Christianity alone makes logic possible. With this quote, whatever absolute character Clark’s presupposition of God’s Word may have had is completely dissolved.” (PA:S&D, 145-146)

Bahnsen, as you may know, was the “heir apparent” to Van Til. He is the definitive exegete of, and successor to, Van Til. As you can see, it is the Van Tillian school that believes that Scripture Alone is presupposed. This may not be considered ideal by the author to which we are responding, but this is certainly the case. Clark, like most modern day apologists, has conceded the absolute truth of the Word of God to a “possibility” – we do not, and cannot.

whereas I think the evidence for the truth of scripture and problems of other sources (Pope’s, Councils, the Koran…) is very strong.

Let me just ask a single, simple question. By what standard? This is the real topic of any debate with anyone. What is your standard? To a Romanist, it is the magesterium, which mediates Scripture by it’s authority. For a Muslim, it is the Quran, which likewise mediates Scripture by it’s authority. For Clark, it is logic that mediates the truth of Scripture. As Bahnsen says shortly thereafter, “By not viewing the truth of Scripture as a presupposition that is absolutely necessary, Clark reduces the status of the Bible to a hypothesis.”

While everyone has some presuppositions, I generally try to minimize what I presuppose and if something can be demonstrated, there’s no need to presuppose it. On the other hand, Van Til’s version of presuppositionalism is marked with antinomy and skepticism.

I agree that everyone presupposes something – I would like to know what the author would define as “some”, however. I likewise minimize what I presuppose – to what God has revealed in His Word! I would also like to know how, precisely, Van Tillian presuppositionalism is “marked by antinomy and skepticism”. I would agree that we Van Tillians are highly skeptical of any “falsely called knowledge” that results from any thinking not in accordance with the Word of God. If that’s what he means, I’m happy to plead “guilty”.

While James White didn’t declare himself to be in either Gordon Clark’s or Van Til’s camp, and generally didn’t get into much detail about presuppositionalism, but his denial that unbelievers can have ‘true knowledge’ and his objection to common ground between believers and unbelievers seems to show more influence from Van Til than Clark, since Van Til famously denied the same things.

I know for a fact that Dr. White is Van Tillian in method, just so you know. Note that neither Van Til nor Bahnsen denied common ground *completely* – but common ground as *popularly conceived.* Our common ground is in the fact that all men are created in the image of God – and it is to that Imago Dei that we appeal, as Paul did in Acts 17. As to knowledge, remember that we don’t deny that unbelievers can have *any* knowledge – they can know the truth, but they *suppress* it, and believe, instead, a lie. However, even when you believe something that is objectively true – but for subjective reasons – you do not believe the *truth*, as it is, for the reasons you *should* believe it – and therefore do not truly know it. There’s more to it, including another post where he responds to a page James Anderson linked him, but that’ll do for now.

I have a couple more issues I’d like to address. In the comments of the above post, A.M. Mallett says the following:

…it is my opinion that presuppositional apologetics is the leaven that fuels the advancement of Calvinism’s carnal flavor. It’s premise is founded on the ability to dissuade the merits of other belief systems rather than relying on the scriptural evidences of God’s power and truth. The LORD did not instruct us to go out and argue against the merits and beliefs of other systems. He tells us instead “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa 55:11 AV). He tells us again “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1Co 1:18-21 AV)
I do not believe presuppositionalism has any ground in scripture.

First off, the presuppositions of the comment’s author are abundantly clear. “Calvinism’s carnal flavor”. I’d like to hear how, exactly, his man-centered system of theology has a basis to critique a system with “Sola Deo Gloria” at it’s heart. His caricature of presuppositionalism is also manifest. While the author may, as he states, have this opinion – it is an eminently foolish opinion to hold. First, he seems to be saying that all we do is tear down the systems of others. While this is incorrect; we are arguing FROM Scripture, and positively arguing the intrinsic truth of the Scripture in response to our opponents as well, it is also incorrect to say tearing down the idolatrous systems of others is NOT commanded in Scripture. How would he explain 2 Cor 10:3-5, if this is the case? Further, note the verses he quotes. How DOES God destroy the foolish wisdom of the world? Through the defense of the faith by His people. Just as God uses means to spread the Gospel, so He uses means to destroy the wisdom of the world. Notice it is His WORD that does not return void. Since our task is to destroy the world’s wisdom by the use of the Scriptures, is that not the very essence of not returning void? I also note that the passage he quotes actually militates against his desire to use evidences as neutral facts. *Anything we say that is grounded in the Word* is foolishness to unbelievers. Unless you are conformed to this world, the world *will* scoff at it. If you are conformed, they may very well accept it – but have you not read 1 Cor 1:17? “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” NOT in cleverness of speech, my friend. If your apologetic is not consistent with the Gospel, it is no apologetic. As for it having “no ground in Scripture” – I suggest you take a gander at Acts 17, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, and Galatians. Also see Jesus’ words to the Saducees; “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.” What is Paul’s answer to the Athenians? “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you”. You don’t know – so I’m going to tell you. Then, he tells them – right out of the Scripture. So, let me repeat – you, sir, are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, nor the power of God.

One more thing to add – recently Christopher Weaver left a comment on this post where he stated the following: “the nonbasic source of knowledge that is scripture”. I’d just like to point out that Scripture, to a presuppositionalist, is THE basis of knowledge, period. This is the fundamental problem with non-Scriptural apologetics, as a rule. They don’t believe Sola Scriptura applies to all of life – just in compartmentalized areas. I bring this up because I left a comment to his initial objection (which boils down to “there can be a counter-factual to the counter-factual which you already denied, so you’re wrong” (aka: I assume counter-factuals)). When you assume what Scripture denies, you also denied Sola Scriptura (not that I have any evidence to believe that he holds to that position in any meaningful fashion in the first place).

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