A Challenge to the Presuppositionalists

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by no1special18, Feb 16, 2009.

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  1. no1special18

    no1special18 Puritan Board Freshman

    I wanted to pose a question regarding presuppositionalism in regards to logic. I believe that I am correct in saying that presuppositionalist say that logic cannot be supported by the unbelievers worldview. However, I am not sure that a theistic worldview is necessary to give an account of logic. My reasoning is that logic seems to be built on self evident laws such as A and not A. It seems obvious to me that one can self evidently perceive apart from the existence of God that my car is not both in my driveway and not in my driveway at the same time. Any thoughts?
  2. Classical Presbyterian

    Classical Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    Total Depravity. We can twist whatever our sinful heart desires and call it "logic" when we are unregenerate. And we do!
  3. no1special18

    no1special18 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree that depraved man will twist logic, but as far as being able to account for logic from a worldview perspective, I believe that the unbeliever can give an account apart from appealing to theistic presuppositions.
  4. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Simply put, without God there are no consistent laws, period; including laws of logic. Without God "A" has no meaning, let alone "not A." Such a position, in my opinion, is foundationally unstable and unsustainable.
  5. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    I could say anything is self-evident. It still doesn't prove anything.

    Also, you may have never seen your car in your driveway and not in your driveway at the same time...does that mean it isn't (or hasn't been)?
  6. Theognome

    Theognome Burrito Bill

    One can be logical without being rational. You can take false premises and logically build conclusions from them. Obviously, such conclusions would be as or even more erroneous then the premises. An unbeliever building a world view upon false premises (atheistic) can draw logical conclusions that are utter nonsense. Rationality of worldview can only be achieved through theistic thinking, for therein lies true premises.

  7. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    These self-evident laws are a part of the presupposed framework within which humans reason. Are they applicable everywhere, at all times, and under all conditions? If so, then there must be an infinite, eternal and unchangeable Mind which validates them. If not, then they are not self-evident laws, but mere temporary conventions.
  8. no1special18

    no1special18 Puritan Board Freshman

    You could not accurately say all things are self evident. 2 plus 2 equals four because once the nature of 2 and addition are understood then they must equal four, hence it is a self evident truth. Once the nature of something being and not being is understood then A and not A have to be self evident laws. Also, it is part of the very nature of self-evident laws such as 2 and 2 equal four to be applicable everywhere and for all time.
  9. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    Says who? I say it's self-evident that cold baths kill people. I saw a man step into a bath tub, lay down, then grabbed a hairdryer that was plugged into the wall. I knew the water was too cold because he shook himself to death.

    You're assuming there's a relationship between numbers...you would be begging the question as you're establishing order by first assuming it is the case. As Rev Winzer has pointed out, that may only be a convention...true now, but maybe not in 5 seconds. I see change all day long...especially after many years...if anything, it is self-evident that all things change. It should be self-evident that there are no fixed laws of logic.
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Have you been everywhere all at once to know that it is a self-evident truth? There may be some place somewhere in which it is not self-evident. You are making an assumption about the regularity of the human condition which you are unable to personally validate. In other words,, you are assuming the Christian view of man in a created universe in order to state what you consider to be a fact.
  11. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    The self-evident laws of logic make it impossible for the non-theistic framework to work. A book has an author, a painting has a painter, and logic has its Logistician. The very laws the unbeliever appeals to in order to make their argument for the non-existence of God provides the noose to hang them with-they have to account for its existence somehow, it cannot be self-evident because it does not allow itself to be.

    The laws of logic say that ex nihilo nihil fit, i.e. there is no self-creation from nothing. The laws of logic also say that A cannot be both A and non A at the same time in the same place, ergo the Universe cannot create itself. The non-believer has to answer these questions that logic bears, and they are unable to.

    Even assuming that logic is self-evident and woven within the fabric of the Universe itself, it still must ultimately have a Creator.
  12. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    I think that was Van Til's point when he used the example of a young girl he saw on a train who slapped her father's face while sitting on his lap.
  13. Theognome

    Theognome Burrito Bill


    You can't win. Logic can be built from anything, but truth can only be given through faith. No one can logically pinpoint theistic thinking, for it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and has not its origins in man. This thread will, unfortunately, go nowhere.

    The strength of Presuppositionalism is the acknowledgment of this very fact- man, outside of regeneration, can only build upon irrational premises that are based upon a rebellious state. The logical conclusions of guilty man will always be in error. No amount of logical wrangling will ever fix this, and to try to make sense of it is to play the role of God. This is the mystery Paul spoke of- that we, as fallen beings, are given a true, rational Rock upon which to build our thinking. If anything, we should tremble before this truth, and pray for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world of the unrepentant.

  14. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    The problem with the term "self-evident" is clearly underlying the context of this discussion. "Self-evident", or even "evident" for that matter, is only concerned with the subjective perception of an individual. Many things may appear self-evident to me without being grounded in fact. Greg Bahnsen never had a problem with using the term but I do and Van Til commonly veered away from it also, forsaking it for "necessity". A necessary truth is one that is true in all possible worlds (as opposed to a contingent truth, which is true in at least one possible world). God Himself is necessary and cannot not exist. Logic, being contingent upon Him, is thus also necessary, but ONLY because of His unchanging character. Hence, logic cannot not exist, but that truth only makes sense at all because logic itself is a quality of God, not some reified principle existing somewhere in the abstract universe. The Christian worldview, being the only one to accurately hold the fundamental character of God and all of His attributes, is the only one which can account for the existence of logic and ordering of our world, including logic which is imposed upon the human mind by God when He created us in imago Dei.
  15. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    :agree: The term "self-evident" is practically useless. It's reminds me of the term "common sense." (Though they don't mean the same thing) For centuries it was "common sense" that the earth was flat.

    Who is the "self" that "self-evidence" is evident to? And what is "evident" to you may not be evident to "my-self"

    Would someone grab my hand and pull me out of this fog? :confused:
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There are some things without which nothing would be evident -- these are self-evident truths according to the philosophy of common sense realism. They are not subjective and limited to one viewpoint, but true in all conditions of human thought.
  17. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Hmmm... that's new to me. Would you mind telling me more about "the philosophy of common sense realism?" I am a Presuppositionalist but I've never believed in common sense. The only thing I know of without which nothing would be evident is logic. Do I have the wrong idea about that?
  18. Roldan

    Roldan Puritan Board Junior

    in my opinion, I think your confusing the fact that humans can reason with the notion that atheist can't account for this reasoning. Presuppositionalism doesn't say atheist don't use logic or reason because as you stated obviously they do and do so at the same time denying that God exist BUT the problem is that by denying God they contradict themselves and become irrational so that at the same time they are logical and illogical, go figure. So therefore an atheist can reason but cannot account for their reasoning.

    Maybe you already knew that but I just thought I share
  19. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    1) Logic does not make sense outside of the non-christian worldview. Atheists are able to think logically, but their worldview does not account for this.

    2) Provide an alternative worldview which gives an account of the laws of logic.

    3) Self evident to whom? Which kind of logic? Who determines what is and what is not self evident? Who determines what is and what is not logical? Either the laws of logic are a reflection of God's thinking or they are arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

    4) Without the Christian God you have no class concept of car, driveway, not, and language and therefore could not state anything about your perceptions. Or to put it another way, apart from the existence of God your experiences are meaningless.
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Please consult the introductory article, "Scottish Realism," by D. F. Kelly in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. It is available online here: Scottish Realism and Scotism.
  21. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks! I will!
  22. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I have been doing some personal work on this subject, and by God's grace I believe I have made some great strides.

    To put it briefly, the atheist can be absolutely correct when he mentions the axiomatic nature of logic. He is completely correct when he establishes that logic is self-evident and cannot possibly be denied.

    ...but it doesn't follow that any worldview is justified in holding logic, as some type of coherence still has to be demonstrated between the unbelieving presupposition and this established fact of logic. He still has to have a presupposition, and as he could later find out in some argumentation, the characteristics of logic (i.e., its universality and prescriptiveness) cannot possibly be reconciled with his presupposition.

    The most important thing to do if an atheist brings up this objection is tell him that he is correct that logic is self-evident -- now how does it fit into his worldview? He has explained the characteristics of it, but he hasn't begun to say how that actually fits into his worldview.
  23. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    We cannot escape our own world view

    First, I am presuppositional in my theology, and I hold that the universe in which we live is in fact correctly viewed only through the lens of scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. I hold that the only universe that could exist is the one that God created, because I hold that God does exist as he has revealed himself.

    That said, I would want to state something I do not believe is true, but at least is consistent from the standpoint of logic.

    Suppose logic is an inherent property of the universe. Not that it is caused by anything or that anything could change universal consistency, but just that these are properties of an eternally existent universe (I know, that is a rather large pill to swallow, but remember, I don’t believe it for a heartbeat either).

    Now what do you have? Logic is possible, and can be consistent without a presupposition of a God that causes consistency. That flies in the face of what we as believers know to be true, but from a logical standpoint, if those properties required for logic just happen to be part of the universe, then it just is.

    We cannot escape our worldview any more than the unregenerate could escape their world view without the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.

    The real issue though is not that they could be consistent. That is beside the point. The Bible says they know the truth because God has made it known to them. Nobody doesn’t believe in God because they don’t have enough evidence; people do not believe because they know who God is, and hate him. We should not be surprised that the world hates God; Jesus said “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 NASB) The world denies God because it hates God and for “good reason”: God is the thrice Holy, Righteous Judge who will not pardon the guilty; He will bring justice, which is condemnation to the world.

    Because our eyes have been opened, we no longer have a perspective of being blind. We no more could see the universe without God than we could have a heart of stone if God has given us a heart of flesh.
  24. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Does this eternally existing universe possess a Mind then?
  25. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Be careful not to argue evidentially with premises such as these. It is not our goal to try to build our case from the ground up and say, "Logic demands an infinite mind; therefore, Christianity is true" -- because 1. that presupposes a self-existing framework apart form God (since we did not explicitly presuppose Him from the outset), which is to deny His sovereignty and idolatrously prefer a separate worldview, and 2. such an argument would never possibly work, for it is a non sequitur to jump from the premise "an eternal mind exists" to the conclusion "Scripture is true," even if deism and all other revelational religions have already been refuted in some other way. We have to start with Scripture.

    ...and if you implied this entire methodology in your statement without explicitly saying so, then I apologize for essentially preaching to the choir. :cool:
  26. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    It wouldn't have to, it would only have to have logic as one of the inherent properties.

    It is *really* difficult to get outside of my own view ... but what I tend to do with these things is remove the axioms I hold true, and then figure out what axioms would be necessary without my axiom set. It is painfully difficult, because I *know* it isn't what anyone actually lives by (nobody really believes it) but I also know that some are so blind that they talk it as if they did.
  27. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    It is perfectly acceptable to let the unbeliever say that logic is "inherent in the universe" or whatever, because logic is axiomatic. Unbelievers are perfectly justified in believing in axiomatic truths. However, it does not follow that these truths which they believe are consistent with their previously chosen presuppositions.

    For instance, before a person can even begin to reason with logic, he must first view the laws of logic as either an entity under God's sovereignty, or a self-existent entity apart from God's sovereignty. There is no middle ground. At this point, he can choose a Christian presupposition or an anti-Christian one.

    If he chooses the anti-Christian one (we'll assume generic atheism for demonstration's sake), then he has just affirmed the lack of a providential Organizer of the universe and the lack of a universal Judge. Seeing as laws of logic (which he already believes and is justified in believing because they are axiomatic) are universal and prescriptive, it follows that his presupposition is inconsistent with his belief in the law of logic.

    Thus, he is not wrong in believing in logic; he's wrong in thinking that he can believe in whatever presupposition he's holding. Hopefully this will make him come to repentance, seeing as he is utilizing a concept which doesn't make sense with his presupposition, yet he used the concept sensibly. :detective: But only God can make the unbeliever identify the grace of God at work and accept it in faith.

    So basically, the general rule for arguing this way is not to argue for the sheer existence of axiomatic truths -- since everyone, per the definition of "axiom," is epistemically justified in believing in them -- but rather for the characteristics of these truths, and showing how they do or do not comport with the unbeliever's presupposition.
  28. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I'm not sure how you arrive at point 1. A presupposition is not something thought up out of thin air, but that which can be proven to be a precondition of rationality. One must be able to provide a rational account for their starting point in order to counter a charge of irrationality. This is not evidentialism since it does not argue from evidence to fact, but simply provides the theoretical basis upon which the facts can be accounted for.

    Point 2 is easily rebutted by keeping in mind that a precondition for human rationality is not only the eternal Mind validating all facts but also the realisation that there could be no knowledge of any fact unless that eternal Mind revealed Himself.
  29. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Logic requires a thought process whereby one moves from antecedent to consequent. If this so-called eternal universe has no thought process then logic cannot be inherent within it. In order for there to be logic in this universe there must be a Mind in which the antecedent and the consequent are validated.
  30. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    You beat me to it. This just dawned on me and I was about to post something to this effect, though not as concise. :p
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