February 8, 2013

Presuppositional Apologetics: An Evaluation

by Mike Riccardi

Dos Equis ApologeticsYesterday I spent some time describing the presuppositionalist school of apologetics. Today, I want to evaluate it. As you were probably able to tell from that post, I tipped my hand a bit and probably let on that I’m a fan. In fact, I believe that presuppositional apologetics is the best model among the various systems of apologetics, particularly because it is the school that most faithfully submits to the implications of Scriptural teaching. I believe this for several reasons.

Consistent with the Nature of Man and Salvation

First, presuppositionalism is the only school of apologetics that is consistent with what the Bible teaches about the nature of sinful man and the gift of salvation. All schools of apologetics will admit that their ultimate goal is not merely to win an argument or to show up a philosophical opponent. All Christian apologists defend the faith in order to honor God and to see people get saved. Yet it seems to me that other schools of apologetics—particularly evidentialism and classical apologetics—fail to bring their practice in line with what the Bible teaches about man’s depravity and God’s salvation.

Evidentialism treats man as if his problem is merely intellectual. It offers arguments and evidences for the likelihood of Christian claims and asks the unbeliever to render judgment. Classical apologists do the same thing, but they insert an extra step by arguing for theism in general before Christian theism in particular. However, both of these methods ignore the fact that the unbeliever’s problem is moral, not intellectual. All evidence will be interpreted in light of someone’s existing worldview. And the Bible tells us that the unbeliever is blind to the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4) and actively committed to suppressing whatever knowledge of God they do have (Rom 1:18) because they love their sin (John 3:20).

Don’t get me wrong: Other schools of apologetics certainly confess that it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who changes hearts. But they seem to neglect the reality that the means by which He does so is the preaching of the Gospel (Rom 1:16; 10:17; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23–25), not the presentation of evidences or the soundness of extrabiblical arguments. Presuppositionalism, then, is the only school of apologetics that behaves consistently with a biblical anthropology and a monergistic view of regeneration.

Argues in Accordance with Reality

Secondly, the presuppositional apologist has the advantage of never having to pretend that reality isn’t the way it is. Notwithstanding the unbeliever’s disagreement, from a purely objective standpoint, God actually does exist. He actually is who He says He is. He actually did create the world in six days. And the Bible actually is His infallible and inerrant Word. It is a good thing, therefore, to reason as if all of those things are actually true and not merely likely or probable.

Both evidentialism and classical apologetics require the apologist to (temporarily, and for the sake of argument) surrender presuppositions about the world that are actually true in order to have their discussions. This is surely an epistemological weakness. But it is also a practical weakness. Surrendering those presuppositions—especially that the Bible, as God’s revelation, is the starting point for knowledge—denies in practice what the apologist is aiming to prove; namely, that God exists and His Word is authoritative. The apologist should not deny by his methodology the very thing he desires to persuade his hearers to believe.

In fact, this is consistent with the way the Bible itself speaks about the existence of God and the integrity of His Word contained therein. Scripture is clear that God has not left these matters open for debate. God never presents Himself in Scripture as a proposition to be coolly evaluated and decided over. Nobody ever gets to tell God, “Wait a second, let me see if You really do exist.” He simply asserts, “I AM WHO I AM.” Trying to evaluate the evidence for God or for the veracity of Scripture apart from Scripture is an endeavor on the order of asking to measure a meter stick. We do not measure the instrument of measurement; it does the measuring.

“But isn’t that begging the question?”

Circular ArgumentThe greatest challenge leveled at presuppositionalism is that it employs circular reasoning. Presuppositionalists are accused of arguing like this: “The Bible is true because it says so.” The natural instinct of many Christians is to go outside of the Scriptures themselves when trying to prove their genuineness (which is precisely what classical apologists and evidentialists do). After all, the naturalist or the rationalist doesn’t agree that the Bible is true, so appealing to the Bible’s authority is merely circular and unhelpful, right?

But those who make this objection fail to realize that they do the very same thing. Everyone reasons according to his own ultimate presuppositions. Every philosophy reasons by its own epistemological standards, otherwise it’s inconsistent with itself.

For example, if I ask a rationalist for evidence for his credence in rationalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he’s going to give me a reason. Or if I ask a naturalist for evidence for his credence in naturalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he’s going to give me a summary of observable facts of nature. They’re turning to their “Bible,” if you will. But when they demand evidence of Scripture’s genuineness and we Christians give them a Bible verse, they shout, “Circular reasoning!” But that’s no more circular than what they do. It’s simply remaining consistent with one’s own epistemology.

See, rationalists appeal to reason as the source of knowledge. That’s what makes them rationalists. Naturalists appeal to nature as the source of knowledge. That’s what makes them naturalists. But Christians must appeal to the Scriptures as the source of knowledge. That is what makes us Christians. We should not, therefore, surrender what makes us distinctively Christian in our epistemology. Besides, if I’m trying to help an unbeliever understand that the Word of God is the supreme authority for the lives of all people, what higher authority could I appeal to in order to demonstrate that? There isn’t one!

Self-Authenticatingly Glorious

Jonathan Edwards provides the key thought when he says, “The gospel of the blessed God does not go abroad a begging for its evidence, so much as some think: it has its highest and most proper evidence in itself” (Religious Affections). That is to say that the Word of God itself is so self-authenticatingly glorious that the very glory of it is its own evidence. Our business, then, is to put that glory on display, recognizing that nothing else will convict the sinner of his sin and convince him of the loveliness of Christ. In my judgment, presuppositionalism remains consistent with these biblical realities where other schools of apologetics do not.

Mike Riccardi

Posts Facebook

Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Michael Coughlin

    Amen, Mike. Ask someone to prove laws of logic sometime…without using logic. :)

    Good article, well written, as usual.

  • SLIMJIM

    That picture looks oddly familiar =)

  • Evangelz

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jallman John Allman

    Very interesting and I’m not sure I understand it all entirely. I do have some questions. Are the evidentialism and classical apologetics approach completely unsuccessful or only less successful in your opinion? Also, I recently read and love the book “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. If you are familiar with that work would you say Keller used the presuppositional approach, one of the others, or a mix of all three? Thanks in advance for helping me get my head around this.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Very interesting and I’m not sure I understand it all entirely.

      I remember thinking the same thing when I was first introduced to all
      this. :-) If you’re looking for a more in-depth introduction to presuppositionalism, two of my favorite books on the subject are John Frame’s Apologetics to the Glory of God, and Greg Bahnsen’s Always Ready. If you want to see how presuppositionalism works in practice, I would recommend the famous Bahnsen-Stein
      debate
      .

      Are the evidentialism and classical apologetics approach completely unsuccessful or only less successful in your opinion?

      It depends on what you mean. I think those approaches are “completely unsuccessful” if considered in an absolute sense, because I think they rest on a fundamentally flawed foundation; namely, the abandonment of biblical presuppositions, implying that that the unbeliever has the freedom and the ability to objectively evaluate evidence and logical argument. But like I said in yesterday’s post, the presuppositionalist is not against giving evidences
      or putting the unbeliever in quandaries with logical arguments. He simply realizes that evidence must be presented in accord with the presuppositions of biblical revelation, and that the giving of evidence is not decisive in changing the unbeliever’s heart. In other words, since the unbeliever’s problem is not intellectual, but ethical, we can’t rely on evidence to do what only the Gospel can do (Rom 10:17; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23-25).

      If you are familiar with that work would you say Keller used the
      presuppositional approach, one of the others, or a mix of all three?

      I haven’t read The Reason for God, though I’d like to. But Keller self-identifies as a presuppositionalist in his apologetic method. Whether he was consistent with presuppositionalism in his book or not, I can’t say because I haven’t read it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/briancurrent Brian Current

        Mike,

        Even before i read your comment here, i was going to ask, besides the Greg Bahnsen-Gordon Stein debate, which i’ve heard 3 or 4 times over the years, where else can we see presuppositional apologetics in action? I have Frames book and have listened to most of Bahnsen’s stuff… but, who today has audio/video demonstrating the use of this method in debate or other conversation? I’ve been wondering this for years! (although i am aware the Doug Wilson used this approach with Hitchens)

        Thanks,
        Brian

        • SLIMJIM

          ” but, who today has audio/video demonstrating the use of this method in debate or other conversation?”
          The guys over at Choosing Hat Dot Com, in particular Chris Bolt who’s working on his PhD right now in Southern. There’s also a guy name Sye Ten Bruggencate, a Canadian whose active in the debate scene. Another guy, though he’s not active anymore in debates, is Paul Manata.

          • http://www.facebook.com/briancurrent Brian Current

            thanks slimjim, i will check it these guys out!

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Hey Brian. You’re right to note Doug Wilson’s use of presuppositionalism in the Collision debate with Christopher Hitchens.

          Another presuppositional apologist who I believe is absolutely outstanding at what he does is James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries (aomin.org).

          One of his associates at A&O, Jamin Hubner, has written a primer on presuppositionalism.

          Another semi-classic work on presuppositional apologetics from a very practical standpoint is Richard Pratt’s Every Thought Captive.

          The Cripplegate’s own Nathan Busenitz has a book out on apologetics called Reasons We Believe, which presents evidences from a presuppositionalist perspective.

          From a more “street preaching” perspective, or presuppositionalism in action, you should definitely check out Sye ten Bruggencate’s website, proofthatgodexists.org. Many videos can be found here. This one in particular is a good example of maintaining consistency with one’s worldview, reducing opposing arguments to absurdity, and showing the “impossibility of the contrary” of God’s existence. I would just want to add a positive presentation of the Gospel at a key point in that conversation.

          Hope that’s helpful.

          • http://www.facebook.com/briancurrent Brian Current

            awesome! thank you. i will check all of this out.

          • Fred Butler

            And do not forget Cliff McManis, who has written a excellent tome on the subject called “Biblical Apologetics: Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ.” Not only is he a TMS guy, but he provides one of the better treatments on the subject of apologetics for the average lay person. It is worth your investment with purchasing. I wrote a full review here if anyone is interested, http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/book-review-9/

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            Thanks Fred! This had gone under my radar, but someone else mentioned it to me the other day. And thanks for the review!

  • Drew Sparks

    Mike,

    Thank you so much for the article on apologetics. I agree with a lot of what you say and can definitely appreciate your stance on apologetics.

    In the first part, you claim that, “Evidentialism treats man as if his problem is merely intellectual.” Sadly, this is true for many who are in thiscamp of apologetics as well as those in the classical camp. However, just because someone presents
    evidences for the veracity of the Christian faith does not mean that he believes that man’s problem is merely intellectual. I believe that using evidences is actually godlike (I am sure you would agree but we might differ on the details). Romans 1 teaches that god has revealed himself and that man cannot escape the knowledge of Him, instead, they suppress it. I believe that this verse allows us
    to point out how God has revealed himself in creation in order to show the
    unbeliever that he is intellectually without excuse for his moral rebellion
    against God. Evidential and classical apologists are simply pointing out the “obviousness” of God in this world, just as He says he does in Romans 1.

    In your second point, you argue that presuppositional apologetics argues in accordance with reality, while other views do not. I would like to see what you mean by this as you did not provide any examples. Is it not true that presuppositional apologetics quickly discuss the laws of logic when engaging in apologetics? Bahsen destroyed Stein with this type of argumentation in their debate about God’s existence. Both classical and evidential apologists use the same type of arguments. Maybe I have misunderstood you on this point, if so, forgive me and correct me.

    I agree with your third point about circular reasoning. Everyone has their starting point, but the question is about who’s starting point best describes reality. Clearly, only the triune God of the universe as well as the Holy Scriptures are able to describe the world we live in.

    On your last point, I partly agree. Nothing else convicts the sinner except the
    word of God. However, Jesus Christ did show himself to people after he rose. Why? Didn’t he teach he would rise again? Is there not OT evidence that redeemer would live as Job said and that the Holy One would not decay? Then why did Jesus show himself? Why did John put a major emphasis on the things that he had, “heard,” “seen,” “observed,” and “touched?” The purpose of the evidence is not to convert people, because people saw the resurrected savior and did not bow the knee. The purpose of evidence is to continue to remind man that they are without excuse and are unable to intellectually escape from God to live in their moral rebellion.

    I believe that John Frame says it best in Apologetics to the glory of God when he
    says that presuppositions are a matter of the heart, not of the argument (very loose paraphrase). I believe men like Mike Licona have sadly replaced the presupposition of the inerrant, infallible word of God in order to be academically respectable. But just because one is evidential or classical in their arguments does not mean that they are surrendering their presuppositions.

    I hope that this all makes sense and accurately portrays what you said. I think presuppositional apologetics has a lot to offer, so I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Again, I enjoyed the last few articles you have posted.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thanks for your thoughts, Drew.

      However, just because someone presents evidences for the veracity of the Christian faith does not mean that he believes that man’s problem is merely intellectual.

      I agree. I think your comments make the point nicely that evidences can be used “to condemn,” in the sense that they leave the unbeliever without excuse. Where I think relying on evidences goes too far is when we expect them to do more than that — when we expect that the evidence will actually convert the unbeliever, or that he will evaluate that evidence objectively and receive it for what it is, which is what I think evidentialists and classical apologists, on the whole, do. As you rightly point out, if first-century Jews observing signs and miracles weren’t convinced with the Son of God right in front of them, their problem is obviously not intellectual (cf. John 12:37ff; see also Deut 29:2-4).

      Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that because the unbeliever’s problem is not ultimately intellectual that he has no intellectual problem at all. And so evidences can be used in an “offensive” (not off-ENS-ive, but OFF-ens-ive) kind of way, in which we demand that the unbeliever make sense of the “evidence” (I might say, “of reality”) according to his own worldview. And we can press him that if he can’t account for reality according to his worldview, he needs to abandon it. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t expect that he fall at our knees and ask what he must to do be saved at that part of the conversation. We need to get to the Gospel.

      Regarding what I meant by “in accordance with reality,” I largely was referring to the nature of man and the nature of salvation. Whereas evidentialism and classicalism treat man as if he is neutral and/or autonomous, presuppositionalism behaves in accordance with the reality that he is neither. Also, a lot of time in discussions of apologetics you hear talk about “point of contact.” Van Til famously said that our point of contact lies only “in the actual state of affairs,” namely, that the unbeliever stands condemned before God and in need of salvation, and we bring a message that is powerful unto that salvation (Rom 1:16). So we don’t need to find any other superficial point of contact; we simply need to rely on reality.

      Insofar as evidentialists and classical apologists argue transcendentally (e.g., about the laws of logic), I’m happy. But I’d say that they’re borrowing that strategy from presuppositionalism, as I don’t find it to be a necessary component, or of the essence, of their methodology.

      However, Jesus Christ did show himself to people after he rose. Why?

      I agree with how you answer your own question here: namely, to provide a basis of judgment and to leave men without excuse. But I also think that Christ shows Himself to people to vindicate and encourage His own followers. And that is another (perhaps even primary) benefit of evidences and archaeological/historical research confirming Christianity: to encourage and assure believers that everything that secular man discovers is in perfect accordance with what God has spoken in the Scriptures.

      So, my answer would be that Christ presented evidences to leave the unbeliever without excuse and to kindly and graciously pile up assurances for the believer whose eyes have already been open. We should use evidences in the same way, and not let them usurp the role of the Word of God in creating new life (Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23) and faith (Rom 10:17).

      • Drew Sparks

        Mike,

        Thank you for your response. It seems that we agree in a lot of areas. As far as I could see from your response, there are only two points I differ with which would cause me to lean away from the stereotypical presuppositional apologist.

        First, I do not see the necessity of arguing transcendently (as you referenced with laws of logic). I don’t know if you would say this, but many who subscribe to your camp say that you cannot argue for God’s existence in an inductive or deductive way. I agree with so much of what Van Til says, but when he, and others, start down this path, I cannot follow for two reasons. First, you and I use inductive and deductive reasoning to understand the transcendental argument. So why not share those types of arguments with those whom we witness to. Secondly, this type of argumentation cannot be used consistently. Would you argue transcendentally with a JW about the deity of Christ? Wouldn’t it be appropriate to argue the following: 1.) Only YHWH was involved in Creation – Isaiah 44:24 2.) Jesus was involved in creation – Colossians 1:16 3.) Therefore Jesus is YHWH. But this is not a transcendental argument. If we do not argue transcendentally with the cults, then why would we feel the need to ONLY argue that way with atheists? Now, I am not passing this judgment on you because I do not know how you feel about this, and maybe I am misunderstanding the arguments, but it would seem that if a JW was at your door you would use sound deductive and inductive reasoning, not just transcendental arguments.

        Second, I agree with you that there is absolutely no neutrality, but this is because all truth is God’s truth. The creator of natural revelation is also the creator of special revelation. Every single fact in the universe is perfectly consistent with the triune God of the scriptures because he created it all. The only difference between natural and special revelation is that special revelation comes pre-interpreted. The universe does not come with the words, “Created by….” Or, “established in…” but the Word of God tells us these things. Therefore, when we accurately study the word of God, we have an interpretation of the world around us, and are then able to use the cosmological and moral argument without neutrality because these are God’s facts that we have interpreted in scripture and are explaining in reality. Besides, who is to say that appealing to the laws of logic is not a neutral action? A good Buddhist would deny that as vehemently as an atheist would the cosmological argument. But where do the laws of logic derive? From the creator. Where did the universe derive? From the creator. It is just as absurd to deny the laws of logic as it is to deny the cosmological argument because both of these facts are not neutral, but based on the scriptures and the triune God found in them. I am aware that these are different types of arguments, but God is the God of truth and one truth is not greater than another as all truth is equally true, and to deny any truth about the creator is absurd.

        Third, I think TAG is overhyped as the end all be all argument. Van Til regularly critiques those who have to build a brick wall in their apologetics. Many presuppositional apologists critique classical apologists first seek to establish theism, but does TAG truly escape this same type of criticism? Nowhere in TAG is the trinity defined. There is never argument to answer for the existence of God just as there is not one argument for the deity of Christ. In the syllogism presented above there are other syllogisms that are needed to establish each of the three points. The same is true with TAG or the cosmological argument, more is needed.

        • SLIMJIM

          Hey brother Drew,

          “I don’t know if you would say this, but many who subscribe to your camp say that you cannot argue for God’s existence in an inductive or deductive way. I agree with so much of what Van Til says, but when he, and others, start down this path, I cannot follow for two reasons.”

          This is news to me; where did you find Van Til saying one cannot argue using a deductive way? Who are these in the Presuppositional camp that would say you cannot argue using deduction per se? This is news to me as I see Transcendental Argumentation as a form and subset of deductive reasoning. Just wondering.

          • Drew Sparks

            Sorry for the delayed response. As far as I understand presuppositional apologetics, any argument for God’s existence must be transcendental in nature. Such as: God exists, therefore morality exists. There are more complex types of arguments. If I am correct, your typical presuppositional apologist would not argue using the standard cosmological argument or typical moral argument. I don’t see any problem in arguing for God’s existence using deduction or induction.

          • SLIMJIM

            Thanks for the response brother Drew.
            Do you see the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God as as a form of deductive reasoning?

          • Drew Sparks

            I would say no, but I am not sure. From what I understand, and my understanding on this is limited, you can argue inductively, deductively, or transcendentally.

  • Pingback: Presuppositional Apologetics: A Summary | the Cripplegate()

  • pat howell

    If one understands and embraces an exegetical theology, it’s quite likely they’ll practice a presuppositional methodology whether they can identify it or articulate it. My formal exposure to Presuppositionalism was at TMS in the 90’s. I’m grateful for what I learned and what I’ve been able to both practice and teach others. My comment is more along the practical lines and can be reduced to a simple question…how many unbelieving folks do you have any sort of meaningful, consistent relationship? It’s my conviction that while a presuppositonal methodology is most Biblical, but it’s my observation that personal evangelism is almost always most meaningful and effective in the context of a relationship…one where people not only hear truth, but see it, experience it. I think there’s enough N.T. support for the practical apologetic of Christian love, humility, service, kindness, etc.

    Having been a believer for nearly four decades and in ministry for most of them…including 11 years at GCC and TMS, it’s my conviction that many if not most believers whom we would identify as solid theologically, are largely withdrawn if not isolated from any sort of regular, intentional relationships with people outside of Christ. There are more than a few reasons for this…everyone has limited time to be sure. And there may be opportunities at work or school…but I wonder if the scheduling of church related activities, misunderstandings or misguided concerns about “worldliness”, separation, etc., aren’t just a couple of the issues that keep us from really building redemptive relationships with people who aren’t like us.

    I’ve listened to 1,000’s of baptismal testimonies at GCC and of other churches over the years. Nearly all of those testimonies included significant reference to someone or some few who loved, served, spoke, gave, persevered, etc., as they shared the truth. My question, again, and particularly for those in vocational ministry…is how many people outside of Christ do you know..know well…care about, are a part of your life…they’re a part of yours? If none, or not too many, or the obligatory “I’m too busy” etc. etc., you might pause and give consideration to what you’re doing. You may be fine and I’m not desirous of being anyone’s conscience, but I think many who are the most theologically astute are equally relationally bereft…

    Francis Schaeffer was taught by Van Till. If you’re not familiar with FAS, you should be. I knew him just a bit. When I served in a church in Rochester, MN, I went to his home every week. Sat in on an interview by a Th.D candidate who interviewed him. Weekly, I watched him talk with people outside of Christ. This was quite helpful after reading some of his work…and even more so having read the biography, The Tapestry.

    His motto was “Give and honest answer to every honest question.” This included the practice of carrying every presupposition to it’s logical conclusion, but in a humble way. He didn’t eviscerate those with whom he was talking and certainly wasn’t playing philosophical volleyball, but he would very clearly unfold the implications and consequences of their expressed philosophy’s, idea’s, etc. His practice was to end each answer with something similar to this; “But that’s not really the greatest problem…(whatever the topic was)…the real issue is that we are creatures, created in God’s image and in rebellion against Him. And until this issue is resolved in a personal and individual way…” etc. He always gave a very clear gospel presentation…he heard people out, was thoughtful and empathetic. He addressed the the theological issues in the discussion but w/o theological nomenclature…and always…always in a very humble fashion while practically employing a presuppositional method. Now, as an older man, I appreciate the great value of humility and the sad reality that knowledge can puff up, but love edifies. You can certainly disagree with Schaeffer on several things and where his views may have been leading him toward the end of his days…but mercy, God used him in untold amazing and wonderful ways in the evangelizing of a generation. And I believe one of the key elements in that effectiveness was his evident humility in the midst of very profound discussions about transcendent issues.

    So…this is pretty long. My apologies. Just two things, really. Especially for those in vocational ministry. How many unsaved friends..real friends..do you actually have? And please, as someone who has and continues to fail in it’s pursuit…cultivate humility and guard against pride. Especially, theological, exegetical, ecclesiastic, methodological, etc., et. al., pride. Perhaps more than anything else, knowing and understanding the truth should humble us…and the deeper into the truth we grow, the greater the manifestation of our sense of awe and humility, recognizing that whatever we may know has been revealed to us and granted to us by the unmerited grace of God. We didn’t come to it on our own. I think God will use a humble person whose knowledge may be lacking before He uses a knowledgeable person whose humility is lacking. There may be those who disagree or want to qualify the my statement and that’s fine. But I’ll stand by it. Getting a “A” in Apologetics isn’t tantamount to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      That’s a great question for us all to ask Pat. Thanks for that. I’m also glad you brought up Van Til. As I was reading Mike’s series, I couldn’t help but think of Van Til, and his legacy as a faithful evangelist.

      Mike now teaches Apologetics/Evangelism at TMS (a course I used to teach, and–if I’m not mistaken–you might have even taught it as well). I also love how TMS has those classes connected to each other. Its another way of constantly underlining the connection between theology and evangelism.

  • Doc B

    “But those who make this objection fail to realize that they do the very same thing. Everyone reasons according to his own ultimate presuppositions.”

    So the best defense of presuppositionalism is, “everybody else is doing it”?

    That doesn’t quite sit right.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      No, I don’t quite mean to say, “everybody else is doing it.” I’m touching upon the reality that nobody can help doing it. It’s just the way reasoning works.

      Those who make the objection think that they’re being purely untethered to any prior commitments and thus “presupposition-less,” while Christians simply assert the authority of the Bible. The point is: they assert the authority of nature, or empirical observation, or rational thought, but they usually aren’t prepared to give an account for why that’s an adequate epistemological foundation.

      • Doc B

        So if nobody can help doing it, then I guess we can presuppose presuppositionalism, can’t we? That puts us back to square one.

        Here’s the problem I face: In the circles in which I run (I’m a college dean), the primary question I have to deal with is the existence of God. Most presupp apologists I know can’t quite get started in the conversation with these types of (a)thiests. And that’s why I’m more of an R-C-Sproul classical apologetics fan.

        (The reason I put the ‘a’ in parentheses is, I don’t believe in atheists. Everyone knows there’s a God. Some just suppress that knowledge. Their disbelief is a form of theistic expression, with a small ‘t’. But that’s where I have to engage them…to face the fact that they know there is a God even when they remonstrate unequivocally that there is none. I have not found presuppositionalism to be of any help in these conversations. But then there’s always the strong possibility that I’m doing apologetics wrong.)

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          So if nobody can help doing it, then I guess we can presuppose presuppositionalism, can’t we? That puts us back to square one.

          No, not quite. This would be true if we had to presuppose everything. But there’s no reason to assume that presuppositionalism itself has to be one of our ultimate presuppositions. If our ultimate presuppositions are that God exists and that Scripture is true and authoritative (i.e., inspired, inerrant, infallible, etc.), then we can come to the conclusion by reasoned argument that presuppositionalism is or isn’t a valid (or the valid) apologetic methodology.

          I’m not sure why the presuppositionalists you know “can’t get started in the conversation” with folks about the existence of God. I suppose it depends on how you define “get started.” I think that Sye ten Bruggencate, whom I mentioned in an earlier comment, does a great job at reasoning consistent with reality, and not treating the unbeliever like he has more autonomy and neutrality than is actually the case. You can see some of his videos where he does this in action here.

          When you say, “But that’s where I have to engage them,” do you mean that you believe it’s necessary to engage the unbeliever on his own terms or from where he’s at? If so, I would just say that it’s not a very biblical method of argumentation to let the conversation be framed by the unbeliever’s presuppositions rather than Scripture’s. This is where I might examine whether you’re “doing apologetics wrong” (which, of course, I have no way of knowing; just trying to be helpful in answering your questions/points).

          The point is: we don’t have to surrender our worldview in order to helpfully and genuinely engage with unbelievers. There’s a way to answer the unbeliever’s questions without surrendering the presuppositions of Scripture — in a way that doesn’t allow him to frame the conversation as if many things that aren’t true (i.e., God may not exist, Scripture may not be God’s Word, the unbeliever has the ability to objectively evaluate evidence, etc.) are possible.

  • Pingback: Apologética Pressuposicional – uma avaliação | Arquivo Teológico()