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.

On Old Earth Presuppositions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Greg Bahnsen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~RK

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

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.

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).

A Hypothetical Apologetic?

In taking Scripture as an absolute presupposition and standard for thought, the Christian apologist ought to maintain that there are no possibilities outside of what God is and decrees to be. It is never possible for God to be other than the type of being He is portrayed to be in His self-revelation. Because he does not presuppose the certain truth of the Bible at the very start of his apologetic (de facto and in principium) Clark (a self-professed Calvinist) is willing to reduce the whole system of Christian truth revealed by God therein to a possible accident!

“Strange accidents do indeed occur, and no proof is forthcoming that the Bible is not such an accident. Unlikely, perhaps, but still possible” (“How may I know the Bible is Inspired?”, Can I Trust My Bible?, 24 Gordon Clark)

Because Clark has this illegitimate notion of possibility in his apologetical system, a notion which lies behind even his beliefs about God and God’s Word, it is inevitable that he should cease to be a genuine presuppositionalist. By not viewing the the truth of Scripture as a presupposition that that is absolutely necessary, Clark reduces the status of the Bible to a hypothesis. The truth of Scripture is not taken to be the case at the outset, so that only later are a man’s thoughts to submit to it. The Christian alternative is one of many possibilities to be explored and evaluated.

~Greg Bahnsen (Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; ch 4, pg 146)

This is from Bahnsen’s critique of Gordon’s Clark’s putatively presuppositional apologetic. Note that he takes Clark’s ultimacy of possibility over God to be a capitulation. This is instructive.

Comprehensive Apologetics

Since neutrality is unattainable for either the unbeliever or believer, and since they have conflicting ultimate standards for judging claims to knowledge, the task of apologetics will ultimately be carried on at a presuppositional level. Contrasting worldviews are being debated. Each worldview has its presuppositions about reality, knowledge, and ethics; these mutually influence and support each other. There are no facts or uses of reason which are available outside of the interpretive system of basic commitments or assumptions which appeals to them; the presuppositions used by Christian and non-Christian determine what they will accept as factual and reasonable, and their respective presuppositions about fact and logic will determine what they say about reality. Thus there can be no direct proof offered for the truth of either perspective; direct appeals to fact and reason are emptied of argumentative strength by the opponent’s presuppositions (with which he understands and accepts facts and logic in a different light altogether). The argument between believer and unbeliever must then be indirect, admitting the impossibility of a neutral approach to reasoning and facts which allegedly outside of an interpretive system. The argument must pit the unbeliever’s system of thought as a unit over and against the believer’s system of thought as a unit. Their overall perspectives will have to contend with each other, rather than debating isolated points in a piecemeal fashion.

When the Christian sets forth his outlook he will stress the kind of God to whom he is committed, the nature of the world in relation to God, and the nature of man as God’s creature.

~Greg Bahnsen (Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; ch 1, pgs 15-16)

Bahnsen and Bare Possibility

Historically, when David Hume and Immanuel Kant exposed the invalidity of the theistic proofs, apologists generally balked at returning to revelation as the basis for their certainty of God’s existence. They elected, rather, to maintain status in the the blinded eyes of the “worldly wise” by attempting to prove Christianity’s credibility by means of arguments that hopefully pointed toward the probability of God’s existence and Scripture’s truth. They settled for a mere presumption (plus pragmatic assurance) in favor of a few salvaged items (i.e., “fundamentals”) from the Christian system. Refusing to presuppose the sovereign God revealed in the Bible as the source of all material or logical possibility, and hence failing effectively to challenge or internally criticize the very feasibility of knowledge, logic, factuality, interpretation, or predication as based on the boasted autonomy of “free-thinkers”, apologists found their defenses razed by those who (likewise) postulated that bare possibility was a principle more ultimate than God. … By appealing to probability, apologists saw Christianity relegated to the museum of of mere religious hypotheses (i.e.. “possibilities”) rather than embraced as the actual truth of God.

~Greg Bahnsen (Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; ch 1, pg 5)

Enough said. Don’t you think?

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