A Brief Explanation of Van Tilian Presuppositional

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Cheshire Cat, Jun 20, 2007.

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  1. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    This will be a brief explanation of Van Tilian Presuppositional apologetics.

    Neutrality is a myth; no one is neutral. Everyone interprets facts through presuppositions. A presupposition is an elementary (or foundational) assumption about reality. Furthermore, everyone has a worldview. A worldview is a network of interconnecting presuppositions that make up one’s view of the world and everything in it. For example, our worldview is Christianity.

    Presuppositional apologetics is a ‘whole’ worldview apologetic. It argues at the foundational level. It is not a ‘piece-meal’ apologetic that argues for different facts here and there. At this point one might ask, if we have entirely different and mutually exclusive worldviews, how can we make any progress in discussions or debate? Two points should suffice to answer this question. 1. All human beings are made in the image of God. 2. Even unbelievers have a knowledge of God through ‘General Revelation’ (Romans 1). This makes it so that we have a point of contact.

    Although I personally think that presuppositionalism is more of an ‘outlook’ than anything else, some have argued that it is a certain form of argumentation.

    This can be seen in a two fold apologetic strategy against the unbeliever:

    “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26: 4-5 NIV).

    In other words, Don’t argue assuming your opponents presuppositions, because this will lead you astray. *For the sake of argument*, take his presuppositions and show that they lead to absurdity, futility of thought, irrationality, etc.

    One way of doing this is by the primary argument in the presuppositionalist arsenal. This is the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG for short). A transcendental argument takes the following form: If X is possible, then Y is the case (because Y is the/a precondition for X). X is possible, theyfore Y is the case.

    e.g. if Consciousness is possible, the a Mind is the case (because a Mind is the precondition for Consciousness being possible/the case). Consciousness is possible/the case, therefore a Mind is the case.

    I made up this example, and it could be a horrible example for transcendental arguments :p, but it makes since to me!

    As far as TAG is concerned, we could say, If X is possible, the God is the case (exists).

    X can be anything from ‘morality’, the ‘uniformity of nature’, universals (like the laws of logic), etc.

    One could also argue that the trinity solves the problem of the one and the many, whereas other worldviews do not.

    Presuppositional arguments do not have to take this form. Here are two examples of some other forms of presuppositional arguments:

    and http://hisdefense.org/articles/ap001.html

    Okey I am short on time and have to go to bible study. Perhaps I will add more later. ~Caleb

    I also recommend reading these two intro. articles by John Frame: http://www.thirdmill.org/files/english/html/pt/PT.h.Frame.Presupp.Apol.1.html and http://www.thirdmill.org/files/english/html/pt/PT.h.Frame.Presupp.Apol.2.html
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2007
  2. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sorry if this is off-topic (just tell me if it is), but where do Clark and Van-Til diverge in the above points?
  3. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    That is off topic, but I wouldn't be able to help you much anyways. I should note that there is much more that could be said about Van Tilian Presuppositionalism. This is only a brief intro. for those who are interested in the apologetic methodology, but don't know where to start, and want to be spoon fed a little :).
  4. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    I think a better description of TAG would be:
    P1) X (is the case) if and only if God (is the case)
    P2) X (is the case)
    C) therefore: God (is the case)

    I don't know why this is called the "transcendental" argument. It is merely to say that God is necessary (ontologically) for there to be objective knowledge, morality, truth, etc.

    The difference between Van Til and Gordon Clark would be that Clark would say:
    God's revealed Word is necessary (epistemically) for there to be objective knowledge, morality, truth, etc. ​

    Now the atheist still has the option of saying there is no objective moral truth, or that all knowledge is individually subjective, or admit that his worldview does not allow him to know if either exist. And some atheists do claim this. So this argument only works against atheist who assume there is objective knowledge and morality by exposing this internal contradiction.
  5. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    If X is possible, then God is the case (exists). I should have added (Because God is the precondition for X to be possible).

    Mine is a better description of TAG, because it takes the form of a transcendental argument. Now why exactly the argument must take the form of a transcendental I'm not exactly sure. I need to study more, and this thread is just my summary of what I have understood so far. I haven't read much of Van Til at all, and I have yet to read Bahnsens big book on the subject, although I plan to read it soon.

    Of course the atheist will respond that there is no objective morality, or they will hold to nominalism etc.. And that is where we argue with them on those points. So its not as if the atheist must "assume beforehand" in order for this argument to work. Part of the argument is to demonstrate the problems with moral relativism, nominalism, etc.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2007
  6. Julio Martinez Jr

    Julio Martinez Jr Puritan Board Freshman


    It is transcendental by the evaluation laid out by Kant. When Kant answered Hume that there are two epistemic categories for knowledge, Kant answer Hume by saying that there are more than two categories for knowledge. He then formulated a transcedental method of answering Hume in his "Critique fo Pure Reason." The two are synthetic and analytic propositions. Analytic are a prioir; and synthetic reasoning is a posteori. Kant then stated that some propositions are analytic a posterori, and vise-versa. This in turn formulated a transcendental nature to epistemology. In this case, God is necessary for intelligable experience. This is a necessary presupposition, according to Van Til/Bahnsen/Frame.
  7. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Moral neutrality does not exist because we are all sinners. "Neutral" objective reality does exist. The sun shines whether we observe it or not. Also, if common ground exists, some neutrality exists. So this slogan is incorrect.

    I'm not sure why this matters. Why would one think otherwise?

    Most people have a spontaneous view of reality based on social conformity. That is not a "worldview," because that implies reflection.

    Actually, it is anti-foundational as it goes around deconstructing everything in sight, then tells you to believe a Bible that is full of paradoxes.

    I'm not sure I follow. Can you give me some examples of piece-meal apologetics?

    What does that prove? Are you saying that neutrality is possible?

    So is general revelation an exception to that "no neutrality" stuff up top?

    If the other person figures out you are making a slippery-slope argument, you may have some trouble. This is not necessarily fallacious, but the guy may see no reason to be consistent to his own beliefs.

    Besides, Van Tillianism leads to absurdity, futility of thought, and irrationality because it claims the Bible is full of paradoxes. So it fails its own challenge.

    Why is this better than what Anselm proposed?

    What does this get you? You still have to show the mind's existence best explains the phenomenon of consciousness.

    Since you brought it up: If God is both one and many in that sense, than God is the God of modalism.
  8. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Why do I care what Kant thinks? Why is he the benchmark of philosophy? If you say that due to Kant, we must throw out catholic orthodoxy and take up fideism, then you might as well say that he has refuted the faith. I refuse to do that.
  9. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Clark believed that the Bible is the Word of God revealed to man -- and that therefore it must be coherent, not a maze of paradoxes. While I still say he was a fideist, he is a bit easier to swallow. Happily, plenty of Van Tllians don't take up "paradox," "one and many" and other eccentricities.

    In my humble opinion, the two most perceptive presuppositionalists were influenced by Clark: Carl Henry and Ronald Nash. I consider Henry the greatest Southern Baptist in history.
  10. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Do you agree with Bavinck, that mystery is the vital element of Dogmatics?

  11. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Excellent question. While Bavinck was a greater man than me, I humbly submit that he was wrong here. Even so, I believe some of his successors took that part of his systematic to an extreme he never intended.

    If mystery means that God reveals things that would otherwise by unknown to fallen human reason, I like it better. If it means that God tells us two contradictory things, then Barth wins.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    No van tillian accepts actual contradictions. Van Til and Rushdoony wrote books against Barth. They probably aren't closet Barthians.
  13. BrianLanier

    BrianLanier Puritan Board Freshman

    Why would you think that quoting Kant or any other philosopher in support of a point, to be an endorsement for every *other* point made by that same individual? It seems to me that Mr. Martinez was just explaining *why* someone would consider that type of argument transcendental.

    It seems rather silly to me to say "Why do I care what X thinks?"
  14. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    A paradox might as well be a contradiction. If the Bible is not coherent enough to be read then either:

    a.) it can't be the Word of God,
    b.) it only points to the Word, which is kerygmatic,
    c.) we need the Magisterium as an anointed interpreter, or
    d.) it is a useful myth that teaches us lessons about ourselves.

    Barth said A and B. Scott Hahn says C. Liberals say D. Van Til wanted to say instead that Scripture is a paradoxical Word, which brings us right back where we started.
  15. BrianLanier

    BrianLanier Puritan Board Freshman

    Why is something that is paradoxical also something that is incoherent?

    See James Anderson's book, Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status for a good Van Tillian thinker (with many helpful does of Plantinga!) that "takes up 'paradox'".

    From the description (of the book):

    "How can Jesus be fully human and fully divine? How can God be Three-in-One? James Anderson develops and defends a model of understanding paradoxical Christian doctrines according to which the presence of such doctrines is unsurprising and adherence to paradoxical doctrines can be entirely reasonable. As such, the phenomenon of theological paradox cannot be considered as a serious intellectual obstacle to belief in Christianity. The case presented in this book has significant implications for the practice of systematic theology, biblical exegesis, Christian apologetics and philosophy."
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Van Til denied A, B, C, and D. :deadhorse:
  17. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    He never answered the question. He claimed that the Bible is somehow the Word of God, even though it is incoherent as propositional revelation.
  18. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Wait, wait, are you saying that Van Til proposed an apologetic which was supposed to function by pointing out slippery slopes and internal inconsistencies in other systems while simultaneously championing internal consistencies in his own, and then claiming the unique right to throw out a trump card making his own inconsistencies "apparent" and those of the other systems actual?
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Can you show me where he said the bible is incoherent?
  20. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Do you believe that there are certain things about God that man cannot fully comprehend?
  21. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    The question isn’t about metaphysical objectivity, but the ability to epistemologically realize that metaphysical objectivity. This is obvious. Epistemic ability is affected by moral ability. Also, on the common ground = neutrality comment, please get past the mere words and think about the meaning of the term I am using. I’m not asking much here. You can do it.

    This matters because our ability to derive correct conclusions is dependent on our presuppositions. Furthermore, our presuppositions are the assumptions that lend credence to what premises we select. Presuppositions determine what we think are facts.

    I’m not sure why one would think otherwise. You tell me. That’s not my problem.

    Having a worldview does not require reflection of why one has that worldview. A worldview is just one’s metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical viewpoint of the world. Everybody has a worldview, even if their worldview was acquired by complete and utter indoctrination.

    You totally miss the point and then assert a straw man without argument. Nice.
    It argues at the presuppositional level. Presuppositions are the foundational assumptions of one’s viewpoints on reality. Presuppositionalism says to attack the presuppositions of one’s opponent in a worldview debate. When you say, “goes around deconstructing everything in sight”, this is what can be called attacking the presuppositions. Thus, from what I said above, it argues at the foundational level.

    Arguing for one fact at a time, totally ignoring that one’s presuppositions determine what one thinks is a fact. For example, arguing for the resurrection by itself totally ignoring the interlocutor’s views on miracles, the existence of God, etc.

    There is a difference between neutral ground and common ground. To quote from Gary Demar on pg. 246 of Pushing the Antithesis, “’Neutral ground’ requires that there be no commitment one way or another on any given issue being debated. “Common ground” speaks only of a point of contact that you share with your debater”.

    Actually TAG isn’t the method of presuppositionalism, but an argument it uses. Anyway, TAG is not a slippery slope argument. Besides, reducing an opponents viewpoint to absurdity has a better chance of being called a reduction ad absurdum. But that is only a part of TAG.

    No argument, just another assertion. Why am I not surprised.

    Red Herring.

    Okay then, what do you posit that explains consciousness besides the existence of mind?

    That’s another assertion.

    Also, you haven’t responded to the links I have provided here: http://www.puritanboard.com/f85/boccaccio-kreeft-chesterton-26050/#post319018
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2007
  22. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"


    Can I play?

    I have not taken the time to read through the thread, so please be patient with me. Allow me to present a definition...

    Apparent Contradiction: 'P' is apparently contradictory to person 'X' within system 'S' if and only if person 'X' cannot see how 'P' is not inconsistent within system 'S'.

    The first thing one should note about this definition is its subjective nature. Person 'Y' may be able to make 'P' consistent within system 'S', and as such 'P' is not apparently contradictory to person 'Y'. Yet, 'X' may be ignorant of what 'Y' knows, and therefore for person 'X' 'P' is apparently contradictory. Here is another definition...

    Real Contradiction: 'P' is a real contradiction within system 'S' if and only if 'P' is not consistent with system 'S'.

    Contrary to the earlier definition, this definition is objective in nature in that it does not deal with the perceptions of individuals. It should be noted that all real contradictions are apparent contradictions, but not all apparent contradictions are real contradictions. With this ground work laid I would like to posit a couple of propositions and get your reactions...

    A: It is possible that there is some 'P' that is an apparent contradiction to person 'X' and not an apparent contradiction to person 'Y'.

    B: It is possible there is some 'P' that is an apparent contradiction to a finite person 'X' such that 'P' cannot be resolved in the mind of person 'X' due to person 'X's finitude, but for God 'P' is not a real contradiction.

    C: In terms of case B, the Hypostatic Union in conjuction with the Trinity is one such 'P'.


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