Calvinism and presuppositionalism vs. Arminianism and evidentialism. Any correlation

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by MMasztal, Apr 7, 2011.

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  1. MMasztal

    MMasztal Puritan Board Sophomore

    I just finished watching a debate with my Apologetics class between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens. Early on in the debate it became evident that Craig subscribes more to the evidentalist camp than the presuppositionalist camp. He also admitted he is a Wesleyan :um:

    Overall, in my opinion Craig did only OK in the debate, but it left me wondering is there a strong correlation with those in the Reformed camp subscribing to presuppositionalism and those in the Arminian camp embracing evidentialism.

    My thinking would say there would be the above correlation since Reformed doctrine emphasizes the sovereignity of God hence the presupposition of God as the prime and centrality of our existence, versus Arminianism's focus on man's free will. Evidence is, after all, subject to individual interpretation as it points to man's individual capacities for reason, etc., and ultimately the decision/conclusion.
  2. sastark

    sastark Puritan Board Graduate

    Although not every Reformed theologian is presuppositional (R. C. Sproul is not, for example), I have yet to meet a presuppositional Arminian.
  3. MMasztal

    MMasztal Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks. Yes, I forgot about Sproul's belief. I attended the Ligonier Conference last week and Sproul took a swipe at the pre-supps, albeit a misrepresentation of presuppositionalism.
  4. Douglas P.

    Douglas P. Puritan Board Freshman

    You’re on the right track, in fact Van Til often belabours the point that presuppositionalism flows from the Calvinistic doctrine of God, while evidentialism will flow from the Arminian/Roman Catholic/Greek etc. doctrine of God.

    The evidentialist say’s “Here are the facts, they are what they are, now let’s be gods unto ourselves and be judges of God to see whether he is true or not”. The evidentialist places the authority in the individual, pure rationalism.

    So to does the Arminian say “Here is the Gospel, now be a god unto yourself and judge whether God is worthy” making salvation, just like truth above, dependant upon man. The Arminian, by consequence of his theology, must allow for man to be purely autonomous, thus his apologetic, to be consistent with his theology, must be one of pure rationalism.
  5. MLCOPE2

    MLCOPE2 Puritan Board Junior

    Well... Not a consistent one anyway! ;)
  6. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    It is impossible to be a presuppositional apologist when your theology is Arminian in nature. Presuppositional apologetics only can function within theology that holds to Total Depravity / Total Inability. Otherwise, you cannot believe that the Will is held in Bondage.
  7. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Indeed, Mr. Van Til was self-consciously bringing apologetics into what he believed to be the only system of doctrine consistent with the Bible: reformed theology. And this theology cuts much deeper than the doctrine of God. He was expanding to some degree on other/earlier Dutch theologians including G. Vos and H. Bavinck and giving an expanded and systematic approach.
  8. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Your right for saying this. One crucial reason why you are correct is both Dooyeweerd's and Van Til's critiques of autonomous thought. Van Til tended to point out the epistemological idolatry of all non-christian thought and Dooyeweerd, and Vollenhovan, tended to point out the metaphysical idolatry of all non-christian thought. Since Arminianism puts an ultimate, even godly, emphasis on the freedom of the will they have idolized the human will so they cannot consistantly be presuppositionalist because the presuppositionalist does not make anything but God godly, if that makes sense.
  9. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If there is no objective "neutral" zone then on what basis could one reject a muslim argument (you do not get to judge Allah) put forth in a similar way?

  10. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Van Til's formulation of the concept of self-deception in the biblical presuppositional approach intertwines with the biblical doctrine of total depravity....which also intertwines with the biblical concept of autonomy (book of judges comes to mind over and over we read "and everyone did as he saw fit"). Thinking God's thoughts after him meshes with the biblical doctrine of the knowledge of God, so that we have a basis for knowing objective truth. It is only in the biblical presuppositional approach that we have the certainty of faith we read about in Scripture, and do not compromise the truths of Scripture pertaining to the non-Christian. We can emphasize the antithesis between the Christian and the non-Christian, the difference between Christ as Lord in every area of life, the sovereignty of God over all, versus a sovereignty of human autonomy....which can only lead to subjectivism, skepticism, and doubt. One of the main problems with the classical and evidential approaches is that they do not prove that the god that exists is the God of Christianity, and whatever they might prove, they do not prove with absolute certainty. We should start with Christ as Lord in our apologetic and end with Christ as Lord, and our basis for Christ as Lord is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Holy Scriptures. So the basis for true knowledge is revelational in nature (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..). The impossibility of the contrary is summed up by the notion of Theonomous knowledge (true knowledge based on revealed Holy Scripture and authority of God) versus autonomous knowledge (knowledge based on authority of man's reasoning, sense perception, etc). The whole notion of "neutral ground" is autonomous, it does not assume the authority and knowledge of God in every area of life, and undermines the biblical doctrine of total depravity.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  11. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    What exactly do we mean by presuppositionalism? Where does Old Princeton fit? How about Reidianism? "Reformed" epistemology (Wolterstorff, Plantinga, et al.)? Clarkianism? Schaefferianism? I find this term so widely used and misused that I wonder sometimes whether it has any meaning at all.

    I'm reformed, yet I'm also more of Reidian/"Reformed" epistemologist, and am not entirely sure that the term "presuppositionalist" means much anymore. When was the last time a "presuppositionalist" debated an atheist in public?
  12. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Since there are different schools of presupp, the meaning would be in the context. The term is thrown around ambiguously and generically at times, but in the Vantillian/Bahnsen sense of the term it is an approach to defending the faith where the Christian worldview is set over and against all other opposing worldviews. If we were not to view the defense of the faith in terms of "opposing worldviews", then the meaning of presupp might diminish considering everyone has presupp when it comes down to most basic assumptions concerning the big questions of philosophy.

    Apostle Paul--------->Augustine-------->Calvin-------->Kuyper,Warfield,Hodge--------->Van Til, Bahnsen

    Van Til stood on the shoulders of those before him, Old Princeton fit in well with him. Both Van Til and Bahnsen thought very highly of Old Princeton.

    Not familar with the term...sorry

    From Van Til's unpublished manuscript entitled "Reformed epistemology":

    "Coming now to discuss that form of Christian epistemology which we consider most satisfactory, we already know from the standard of criticism employed throughout the previous chapters that the Reformed view makes the claim of having alone done greatest justice to the principium speciale. “Calvinism is Theism come to its own.” That, as so many others, was a profound and comprehensive statement of Dr. Warfield. Calvinism alone, with its doctrine of the total dependence of man upon God, a dependence which is absolute and which nevertheless does not violate but brings out the true exercise of the human faculties, Calvinism alone could develop a truly biblical theology and philosophy. Calvinism alone, with its covenant-theology could make God the interpretive category of all reality, and thus afford the necessary universal validity. Calvinism alone could offer such a metaphysics upon which a valid epistemology could be constructed. So also with the principium speciale. Calvinism alone with its doctrine of the nature of man and the image of God in man did justice to the noetic influence of sin. The full and open recognition of the loss of God’s image in the narrower sense through sin, and the retention of that image in the wider sense through common grace could alone open the way for a valuation of the influence of sin upon the consciousness of man that should neither over nor underestimate the same." Van Til, C., & Sigward, E. H. (1997). The works of Cornelius Van Til, 1895-1987 (electronic ed.). New York: Labels Army Co.

    Reformed epistemology is very much a part of Vantillian biblical presupp. I cannot say what Plantinga, etc. might have added or taken away from because I am not all that familar with his works, but I have not seen Reformed epistemology in and of itself presented as an all encompassing exhaustive system for defending the faith.

    Gordon Clark had a somewhat different approach. From what I understand, his most basic presupp or axiom would be logic, and that it is a property of God. I would agree that logic is a (transcendental) property of (the mind of) God, but I disagree in that it should be our most basic presupp.

    Schaeffer was a student of Van Til, from what I understand Schaeffer's approach to defending the faith was cumulative. Van Til would certainly agree there is a place for evidences within the Christian worldview, the difference is one of approach.

    Just depends on the context, like most other terms...

    While I do not think a Scientific method of testing something in a public debate is the be all end all for deciding the truth of a matter, I am inclined to think it hasn't been all that long ago since a presupp debated an atheist. Vantillan Paul Manta engaged atheists in public debate not all that long ago...vs Dan Barker in...2007? Rev James White is quite active in public debates, although he may differ slightly, I do believe he embraces Van Til/Bahnsen presupp. Check out this debate from 2005: North City Presbyterian Church - Does The Christian God Exist? Pawnage!
  13. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    Is anyone familiar with Vincent Cheung?
  14. MMasztal

    MMasztal Puritan Board Sophomore

    I’ve read a lot of Cheung and use some of his stuff for the theology class I teach. I appreciate his direct approach and willingness to confront a lot of the liberalism in the church- much like John MacArthur.

    I haven’t been able to find out much about him though. All of his books are free downloads which is uncommon, but I appreciate it.
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    James White was scheduled to debate Hitchens and probably still will. He has also debated a number of other atheists. Doug Wilson debated Hitchens a number of times and there was even a movie made out of one of his debates.

    I agree that presuppositionalism is a bit of a broad term. I think that Common Sense Realism is not so far from Van Til. I don't think he was every a systemetizer the way some of his disciples have been with their insistence on certain philosophical forms. I know that's broad brush but I find many points of contact in Van Til and older orthodoxy in the Archetypal/Ectypal distinction that has been central to Reformed thinking.
  16. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    If we include Old Princeton, then we have to include Gerstner/Sproul. These two are very much in the tradition of Old Princeton, whereas Van Til has more of Kuyper about him.

    "Reformed" epistemology (I use the term in quotes because many of its proponents are Molinists, not Calvinists) is more in line with common sense realism with the Sensus Divinitatus added as a dimension which, for the regenerate, makes belief in God rational along the same lines as trust in sensory data, testimony, etc.

    I think I have to agree here. His use of certain terms ("autonomy" for instance) was often inconsistent and clearly not meant to be as systematic as Bahnsen made them out to be.

    Common sense realism is, I think, compatible with some sort of presuppositionalism, but not with straight Bahnsen-Van Tillianism. However, I think we can agree that, when used rightly, it does not have to be autonomous.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The presuppositional school of Van Til developed from the direction men like McCosh and Orr took common sense realism. We need to see that "Christendom" provided the presuppositional framework within which evidential apologetics had been conducted, especially in a school like Princeton. Presuppositionalism emerges as western thought begins to break away from its basic Christian presuppositions. Philosophers like Plantinga, Nash, etc., have demonstrated that realism is based on foundationalism, which itself stands on the sine qua non conditions of rationality.
  18. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    My elder (well, former elder at the moment) is a presuppositional Arminian.
  19. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    There is no neutral method that can be used to discern which worldview is the correct one. There is no method for finding truth that makes no assumptions about which belief system is true that Christians and non-Christians can use. Christians and non-Christians do not share the same understanding of what is reasonable or what kind of facts are possible. Christians and non-Christians do not share the same approach for finding the truth.

    Presuppositionalists argue that the unbeliever borrows ideas from the Christian worldview. For example, if the unbeliever believes that creationists do not have any integrity when they practice science, the presuppositionalist could argue that the unbeliever assumes that moral values exist and that without the Christian God there would be no moral values. The non-Christian could use the laws of logic to make arguments against Christianity, but if the Christian God did not exist then he could not use the laws of logic in the first place.
  20. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If there is no neutral method then when Paul talked about suppressing the truth in Romans 1, all he was saying is "According to the Christian Worldview, x is suppressing the truth in unrighteousness." As far as a method that does not make any assumptions about truth not existings, are you saying that we all must take a blind leap faith and hope we leap well? Otherwise, there must be some method.

    I agree that Christians and non Christians disagree over what is reasonable, however, I believe that Christians can justify their claim due to the contradictory nature of the unbelievers worldviews.

    Why do presupps feel the need to claim that unbelievers borrow from the Christian worldview. Is it not better just to show that the worldview is contradictory and move on?

  21. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Clark's starting point, axiom, presupposition was Scripture, not logic. He says so in his books. To say otherwise is to misunderstand and misrepresent Clark.
  22. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Jim, Sorry I guess I misunderstood, I did not intentionally misrepresent. I own a number of Clark's books but have not read any from them in years. Could you shed some light on the differences between Van Til and Clark for me and other readers?
  23. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It is basic to "Christian presuppositionalism" to show that rationality is only possible on "Christian presuppositions." To stop at showing the unbeliever his worldview is contradictory does nothing in the defence of Christianity as a positive, constructive belief system.
  24. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Both the "concept of self-deception", and "common grace" have a role in suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. For Christians, it is not a blind leap of faith, we were dead in sins and trespasses, dead men can't leap. For us, the supernatural work of God in regeneration and faith God authored in us caused us to believe. For the non-Christian, yes, it is a leap...autonmous leap inspired by the evil one.

    Yes, the "impossibility of the contrary" has a way of exposing the contradictory nature of non-Christian worldviews. This may be a bad example, bear with me, imagine a non-Christian sitting in a dark room, a Christian comes along and turns the lights on. The lights were there all along and shine on both of them, the non-Christian acknowledges the lights, he turns them back off, all while denying God is behind the laws of electricity.

    Well, it's not just a claim, it's true. The non-Christian on their own worldview cannot give an accurate account for transcendental or conceptual realities such as the laws of logic, morality, etc. the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience. If indeed God is behind logic, morality, language, mathematics, etc. why should we surrender the God given rational grounds for engaging in discussion? Are we to tell them, "your worldview is ok so far as logic, morality are concerned, you just need to change a few things"? What if their worldview is consistant...within their worldview?
  25. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    It seems to be a common mistake. Your request is a tall order and has been thoroughly discussed on this forum. Just search and you'll see.
    It's good to see that you have read some Clark. Many of his critics never have and yet they criticize what he wrote. I encourage you to reread some of those books such as, if you have them, "An Intro. to Christian Philosophy", "Religion, Reason and Revelation", Three Types of Religious Philosophy" and "Lord God of Truth".
  26. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    All very nice in theory. Incredibly hard to prove. And very often in discussions I find myself accused of a Russell's teapot argument (ie: I can point my telescope at the asteroid belt and see a teapot. If you can't see it, then it moved).

    I've discussed this multiple times on other threads and what this comes down to is that the non-Christian just doesn't have as nice a story for explaining it. I've never seen a presuppositionalist actually demonstrate a necessary connection between Christianity and morality, Christiabity and logic, etc.

    Necessary, by the way, means that you've demonstrated X->Y, ~Y->~X. It means that you've proved that if, for instance, there are moral values, then Christianity necessarily follows from that proposition. A necessary precondition would be a precondition that flows deductively from the thing that it is a precondition for. One example would be that an effect has a cause, a law has a lawgiver, etc.
  27. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    To my understanding this sounds contradictory. "Follows" indicates an a posteriori whereas a precondition is a priori. Do you have Ronald Nash's "Life's Ultimate Questions?" Pp. 272-304 might prove helpful for you as you think through the modern application of common sense realism.
  28. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    For a necessary precondition, the reasoning would have to work both ways. To claim that God is a necessary precondition for morality, you are claiming P->Q. If morality, then God. However, the claim needs substantiation so that you also have to show ~Q->~P: if there is no God, then there is no transcendent moral standard.
  29. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Moral values come to us in the form of commands and commands can only come from a personal being. Commands cannot come from impersonal things. Moreover, moral values apply to all people in all places at all times so this personal being must have authority over all people in all places at all times.

    If there is no God, then the origin of everything is impersonal. Impersonal things cannot give commands. Impersonal things don't have authority over people. They can't obligate people to do something.
  30. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

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