The debate is as 12pm EDT – you can get directions to the chat channel it’s being held in here. The thesis: “Is the Qur’an the Word of God?”
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:
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.
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*
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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).
James White and Sam Shamoun on ABN, addressing whether Muhammad is mentioned in the OT, as Muslims tell us.
Yahya Snow, with his typical monotony, already has his spin ready. Ready to hear it?
They had it coming.
Yup! Asking questions, and engaging in dialogue, according to Mr. Snow, is grounds for arrest. As he says in the lead-in to his article:
The controversial evangelical group has had its co-founders arrested. You may remember the controversy they caused at last years Arab Festival in Dearborn; they were ejected from the event by security. This year they top that by getting arrested.David Wood and Acts17 Apologetics Were Looking For Trouble Under the Guise of Evangelism
Yes, since they were so peaceably ejected (you saw the video in my previous post – does that make any sense, folks?) from the festival last year, it’s only reasonable that they get arrested this time, right? Give me a break. As Nabeel pointed out in the video last year, this is America. You don’t get free reign to assault people, or to infringe on their right to free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of religious expression. Maybe that’s “acceptable” elsewhere, but not under this governmental system. I also find it laughable that Mr. Snow is attempting to “guilt trip” Dr. White into not associating with Nabeel and David. Does Mr. Snow have any conception of the work Dr. White has engaged in for over two decades with Mormons? Witnessing at their yearly convocation in Salt Lake City (which they gave up recently, due to the obnoxious behavior of KJVO protestors, not evangelists), or at the annual Easter Pageant in Mesa? This is nothing new to any Christian. This is nothing new to Dr. White, nor will it be “shocking” to him, or to Christians who know their Scripture. It’s quite familiar, and Biblically expected.
A note to Muslims: When people act as is shown on the video from last year, the face of Islam is unmasked. You can try to spin it all you want, but it’s plain as day to the people of this nation, and to Christians all over the world. I hope you understand that these men and women went to this festival, despite there being death threats made if they returned. To a Christian, that is pure joy, to be persecuted or killed for the sake of their Lord. As Nabeel and David noted in their followup video, we are quite able to assert our rights as citizens – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t expect persecution anyway.
Stop playing innocent. We know better, and so do you. They had as much right to be there as anyone else – and had those rights infringed.
They have a post up about their experience here.
This is video from last year’s Arabic Festival. It’s rather stunning.
I’m posting this because this year, David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi have been arrested at the Arabic Festival. I don’t have any more details at this time, but please pray for these brothers. David is scheduled to debate twice tomorrow at the same venue as Dr. White is debating Sunday and Monday. Please pray for them, and for the debates this weekend. More info can be found here.