Calvinism and presuppositionalism vs. Arminianism and evidentialism. Any correlation

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

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  1. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This misunderstands the nature of a pre-condition. Consider the law of non-contradiction. It cannot be directly proven; but it is proven indirectly by the fact that every time a person makes a truth claim he is subject to the law.
  2. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    But this is a direct argument, of the form that C.S. Lewis used in Mere Christianity. If this is a presuppositional argument, then all arguments for theism are ultimately presuppositional.

    Nevertheless, you cannot claim just anything to be a necessary or sufficient precondition. There has to be a demonstration that X is the necessary and/or sufficient precondition for Y.

    One of my contentions, by the way, has consistently been that if Van Til's conception of worldview is correct, then any consistent argument that one could present for Christianity would be presuppositional in nature. The ontological argument shows that God necessarily exists; the cosmological argument shows that God is the most appropriate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing; the teleological argument shows that God is the best explanation for the apparent design in nature; etc. The classical apologist, therefore, is not wrong, but incomplete in his understanding.
  3. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Just to take a step back here. I know of no serious philosopher who has ever really doubted, except Frame, that the Transcendental Argument is different in logical form from a direct deductive type argument. So trying to force it into a direct deductive type argument destroys the very logical form that makes it what it is. Many people criticize the validity of a TA but no one really expects, except Van Til's critics, that it must be able to be translated into a direct deductive type of argument to be valid. With that said keep in mind that a true TA is not a small simple task. We can abbreviate it for better understanding it but a real TA for anything would take up an entire book, Kant's TA did just that.

    Now the issue of nuetrality. When you come across a thinker who seems to be talking out of both sides of his or her mouth it may, not always be, be that the picture he or she is painting is a little more complex than we thought. Van Til considered the unbeleiver from three different perspectives, we see where Frame and Poythress get their Perspectivism from. These three different perspectives are metaphysical, psychological, and epistemologically. We can look at one common beleif from these three different perspectives to see where we have common ground and where we do not, lets examine the beleif that "murder is wrong."

    From a metaphysical view we do have common ground because both the beleiver and unbeleiver are made in the image of God. As much as they would like to they cannot escape this fact they are the image bearers of God. So the moral law withen tells them that "murder is wrong" just as it tells us beleivers the same. Psychologically speaking we all experience the same world. We all must think and talk about the same stuff, that is our common ground or experience. Now it is a common enough beleif that "murder is wrong" to safely say that we can agree with the unbeleiver psychologically speaking. But it was the epistemological perspective that Van Til devoted the majority of his time at. This perspective looks at whether or not a person can logically hold the beleif to be true, or what reasons or evidences can they give (outside a mere psychological agreement) that murder is wrong? Just to shed some light on this, this perspective is what the history of western ethics is all about, how do we logically prove that murder is wrong? So each thinker came up some reason or authority upon which to make this claim and someone else came along and criticized them and on and on we go. Another way to state the problem is this, on what objective basis can we know that murder is wrong?

    It is in this epistemological perspevtive that Van Til maintained that there is no common ground or nuetrality. This is because the unbeleiver will not base his knowledge on the one true authority of God but on some other authority which now must be greater or more important than God, that is autonomy in the Van Tillian sense. To have a greater authority than God and His revealation as the basis for us being able to justify a beleif in the espistemological sense, not in the psychological sense, is autonoumy and idolatry. To justify a claim in the psychological sense you need only point out that everyone seems to roughly agree on it but that does nothing to satisfy the logical problem here. This is where the idea of antithesis comes in. In the epistemological sense there is absolute antithesis between the beleiver and the unbeleiver because they have two different ultimate authorities. Metaphysically and psychologically there is no antithesis, we are all still made in the image of God and we all still experience the same world.
  4. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    As far as murder go, I would make a natural law type argument. I see this to be a neutral area to converse in. One does not need to accept the God of the Bible before one can accept the argumentation. Does this mean that one has to accept that natural law is greater than God? No. Therefore I am not sure what the no neutrality mandate gains.

  5. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    James, you know that here, I have to differ. Every application of a transcendental argument ends up being deductive in form, just like any inductive argument can be made deductively valid with the word "probably." If the argument is not made deductive, then it is no longer compelling and lacks persuasive force.

    In which case, for all practical purposes, it is useless. I'm as completely unconvinced by Kant's transcendental critiques of pure reason as I am of Wittgenstein's linguistic analysis of revealed religion.

    Justify before whom? As I've said in other threads, justification presupposes that someone will judge me for not being able to provide some sort of argument for belief X. If you mean by this term "explanation," fine, but call it that. No one is under any sort of obligation to provide this sort of explanation: it's a question mostly interesting to philosophers. The distinction you draw between epistemology and psychology is unhelpful: both are simply the story we tell about our belief-forming processes.
  6. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    I would like to add that presuppositionalists say that certain things such moral values are not just good evidence for God's existence; they presuppose God's existence.
  7. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Well you make a valid point but as I have said elsewhere I don't disagree with the idea of natural law only natural law arguments. They only probably prove their point, if that. You see inductive type arguments, which any natural law argument inevitably becomes, only probably proves it point. This works well with empirical ideas like all "swans are probably black because I have only observed black swans", but abstarct ideas like right and wrong do not work so well. The reason is because many examples of nations that empirically thought that some form of murder was ok can be found and who says that the ones that thought murder was wrong have a monoply in ethics? They don't you have simply privilaged one part history over another based on your prior presupossition that murder is wrong thus creating a circuler argument of sorts.
  8. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I think reading this paper should put to rest some of your objections.

    Metaphysical Foundations for Natural Law - Owen Anderson.pdf
  9. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    You are simply historically and logically incorrect here. TA deal with far too complex of ideas to be simply put into neat little deductive arguments. Again you must show that the logical form of a TA logically reduces to some various form of deductive direct argument.

    You seem to put too much weight on a subjective persuasiveness. If the unbeleiver is in rebbellion to God what makes you think they will be fair in their level of persuasivness? They won't, they hate the things of God. Without meaning any offense or being too philosophically personal here I will point out that this makes sense from a Reidien point of view. Reid works well on empirical beleifs not abstract beleifs, like morals, because they are two different types of beleifs and thus have different logical conditions for true. Also Reid is far too subjective for me. A basic beleif is what seems basic to me. Again the unbeleiver can call all the shots in the name of not being convinced, I am just happy to show that he or she can't make sense out of anything whether they are convinced or not. So it makes sense that you seem to put too much weight on subjective persuasion.

    Again justified simply means that you have met the logical requirments set forth for your transcendental, not scientific, explination of the experience in question, like moral experience. They are if philosophy has any weight at all. If you deny this point than you may well be denying the very validity of philosophy itself. If it is the case that no one is under any logical obligation to answer these questions than all philosophical questions are simply psuedo-problems. I think that we can both agree that that conclusion is nonsense. Of course it is perfectly logically valid to ask someone how do you know that? But if it is valid to ask that that it points to a logical problem that must be answered in some way by all.

    Why is the psychological/epistemological distinction "unhelpful"? It also seems that you are too tied up with an Enlightenment/Modernist philosophy, by that I mean the culimination of autonomous thought. You fight so hard for the unbeleivers "right" to make all sorts of moral claims because your own foundation for making such claims is the same. But again if you both can make these claims without answering the logical problems of ethics than you must "both" show why these questions are all mere psuedo-problems in an unproblimatic fashion, by that I mean that they don't raise more problems than they solve. Your fighting someone elses battle, let the autonomous dying philosophies of unbeleivers, in this case foundationalism, fight for themselves they are no friends of us christians.
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The ontological argument is in fact the ultimate in presuppositional design. It basically argues that God is necessary for logic. It is interesting to observe that classical apologists shy away from the ontological argument. So yes, incomplete in understanding is probably a good way of describing them, but it should also be clear that an incomplete understanding has led to an inadequate defence of the faith.
  11. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One cannot really argue that murder is "immoral" when people do not believe (1) in morality because (2) they deny the imago Dei teaching. How does one go about establishing either (1) or (2) in an environment where materialistic evolution is the norm?
  12. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate


    X presupposes Y.
    Therefore Y.

    This is simply about logical persuasiveness. TAs don't even work in theory---they provide nice stories but have no logical force. There is nothing in the nature of Kant's TA that requires me to refute it: I can simply ignore it because it doesn't touch my position.

    Not at all---a basic belief is a belief that comes by means of a properly-functioning cognitive power. It's not subjective at all. It may not be objective, but then again, objectivity is just as much of a myth as neutrality. We all have personal commitments that entail certain beliefs.

    But why should I be required to provide one? Again it's a question that's only interesting to a small subset of philosophers.

    It is a valid question. And once we've answered it we may critique the answers ("my senses," "someone told me," etc) but all that we're really doing here is to clear up conceptual confusion. If we tell metaphysical stories, certainly we may compare and critique them, but only a small subset of philosophers feel compelled to do this.

    Because I think it's a false distinction.

    Not quite. When it comes to morality, we will end up comparing metaethical theories and I think that a theistic one is most likely. However, the problem here is that we end up turning God into a convenient explanation. To the unbeliever it looks like a "God of the gaps" type of explanation, whereas a direct moral argument (such as the Lewis argument) is just as presuppositional, has more persuasive force, and shows that X (morality) entails Y (a lawgiver).

    Make no mistake, Christian philosophy is foundationalist. It's just that God and His revelation are the foundation.

    I've been arguing this for a while: the ontological argument is a transcendental argument used in reverse.
  13. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    One cannot. But since materialistic evolution is false, you can argue against it, and then move forward concerning murder etc. You take care of the more basic then address the less basic.

  14. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    That is not the logical form that I gave you in our previous discussions. The correct one is this:
    Y presupposes X
    If X is true than Y is either true or false
    If X is false than Y is neither true nor false

    A TA in theory would function roughly like this.
    1. Analyze the given experience to determine what the logical problems are that must be solved
    2. Analyze the problem to see what the logical conditions are that must be adequitly satisfied
    3. Demonmstrate why the TA satisfies these conditions in an unproblimatic fashion
    4. Criticize other aproechs for not satisfying those conditions
    Bahnsens doctoral thesis is an excellant example of this. That is why it does carry force, it can be criticized sure but it cannot be said to not work in theory.

    Well I agree with the last part for sure. But I regect all forms of foundationalism of this sort where you find "self-evident" or "common-sense" basic beleifs to then build your entire epistemology from.

    Keep in mind that we are discussing philosophical or apologetical situations only not everyday, psychological, situations. I can agree with any unbeleiver all day long unless they enter one of these two areas. Than I am entitled to call into question, just as they are entitled to, any argument or premise that I want with good reason. For them to simply start treating the logical problems I have pointed out for them as "silly" or "useless" questions to answer only digs their logical hole deeper because that itself is one more logical fallacy.

    Yes but you act like there is a complete and absolute disconnect between these "stories" and real people. If the connection is a logical one, which it is, than there is no disconnect like you suggest. If all your saying is that everyday people don't care about these things than granted. But that is not the same as saying that these logical connections and problems simply go away as a result of this.

    Well we can argue that but in one sense you are correct. In the everyday person these two distinctions mix together so that we can only sperate them in theory. But again epistemological problems are still there whether or not the person in question thinks of them or not.

    I don't think so. This is a complicated issue, as you know because I think we debated this one issue many times, because the word "good" has two different sorts of meanings for the beleiver and the unbeleiver. We agree that it means "what we should morally do", but they treat it metaphysically as an independent, almost godlike, metaphysical status. But for us the word takes on a much more "submissive" place because God defines what is right or wrong. This simply avoids all the common logical problems that western ethics as been arguing over for centuries because we assighn no independent metaphysical status to the word.

    Yes but this form of foundationalism is much different than the basic beleif type classical forms take.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Two questions for further threads:

    (a) Did the apostles, prophets, other biblical writers and our Lord use evidentialism, presuppositionalism or a combination thereof?

    (b) Since presuppositionalism presents arguments to the unbelieving mind - albeit maybe better arguments e.g. transcendental arguments or evidential arguments augmented by transcendental argumentation - isn't this a concession to the reasoning validity of the fallen mind noetically affected by sin?
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Isn't your doctrine of creation one that is received by faith? Hebrews 11:3. If so, the unbelieving mind has no evidence for a creatio ex nihilo or creatio imago Dei.
  17. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Faith is opposed to sight not opposed to reason/understanding. Is the unbelieving mind different from the believing mind due to simply making a different unsupported leap of faith? If instead it is due to a rejection of what is revealed by General Revelation, we should be able to point out where their reasoning goes awry and move from there.


    ---------- Post added at 09:21 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:15 PM ----------

    a)Depends on how broadly you are defining your terms. Can a presup appeal to evidence without becoming a evidentialist etc.?
    b)Here you hit on a big point. If the presups goal is to shut the mouth of the unbeliever, then at the very least, the unbeliever must be able to understand when their arguments have been beaten and they have no response.

  18. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There is no leap of faith here. Facts of divine revelation, as they pertain to supernatural, miraculous events, are "beyond reason," though not contrary to reason. Creation is a supernatural, miraculous event. Faith rests upon the testimony of divine revelation in order to understand it. Without that acceptance, there is no "rationality" for creatio ex nihilo or creatio imago Dei.
  19. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Is it your contention that according to general revelation, Biblical creation ex nihilo and materialism are equally well supported?

  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    "General revelation" is divine revelation. If you are going to presuppose it at the beginning of a conversation about natural law then you have already decided the case against materialism. If, however, you were to start with the "bare facts" in evidence, it is difficult to know how one could prove an ex nihilo creation since "out of nothing nothing comes."
  21. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    General revelation means what can be known about God outside of special revelation. Depending on ones worldview one could say nothing, because God doesn't exist, God could exist but doesn't seem to care if we know this etc. I was not attempting to bias anything.

    All ex nihilo means is out of nothing, not caused/created by nothing. To rule God out of bounds, one would have to apriori rule out non materialistic causes. I have no idea what kind of reasoning one could use to back that play.

    Since something exists, something must have always existed. So the contest is over what fits the bill of being eternal.

  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I would like to modify this statement. General Revelation is not what can be known about God outside of special revelation but what God reveals outside the Scriptures. As Matthew noted it is revelation and is not the discursive analysis of facts by an autonomous mind arranging material into what a person may know about God.

    I agree with Matthew that even General Revelation is perspicuous only to the Christian. That is not to say that I disagree with you that an unbeliever can be shown to be a fool in his folly but that is different than getting him to accept God's Covenantal relationship to all things and the supernatural act of Creation. He may conclude (even this would be rebellion) that a god accounts for all things but that would still be a suppression of General Revelation because the true God does not reveal that just any God created the heavens and the earth.

    This is not a "leap of faith" but recognizes what Romans 1 states about the ethical fallenness of man. It is not that man has lost the image of God and the ability to reason but he is ethically hostile to God and will not bow the knee to accede to Creation as God has revealed Himself in nature. He may not suppress propositions and could even agree to the logic of a syllogism that a Christian could agree to but that is different than the knowledge that God reveals of Himself in nature that does not merely result in the acceptance of facts but the worship of the creature in the light and gratitude of Divine revelation.
  23. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I am not sure how this modifies my statement, unless you think I am implying that we can know something about God that God does not want us to know?

    One must remember that this tangent started when I asserted that one could use natural law as a neutral zone, and that being a materialist is no defense. I am in shock that this is even controversial. I made no argument against the view that unbelievers suppress the truth. I simply made the normative claim that a person "should" act a certain way.

    Okay if it is not a leap of faith, then why the opposition to natural law?

  24. Reformed Thomist

    Reformed Thomist Puritan Board Sophomore

    It should be noted that R.C. Sproul (like his mentor, John Gerstner) is not an evidentialist, but a classical apologist. This is an important difference generally, one which strangely tends to be overlooked by presuppositionists, who like to set up 'Presuppositionalism vs. Evidentialism' debates as if evidentialism included classical apologetics. There are similarities between the two schools, but they are distinct and in opposition toward one another.
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's the same distinction as to whether the Scriptures are "breathed out" or whether they are "inspired". I did not think you were implying that we can know something that God does not want us to know. When I said I would modify the statement it was not to accuse you of anything but to suggest that there is a better way of stating something because most people today think of knowledge as something that the mind does by organizing bare facts. If we maintain that General Revelation is revelation it tends to reinforce the idea that knowledge remains grounded in revelation. It also keeps us from making the mistake in thinking we're only going to be resistant to the Bible and not to all revelation.

    I'm not opposed to the concept of natural law. The point of contact that we have with all men is that we're all created in God's image.

    I was simply agreeing with Matthew that agreement on "creation" is not merely an exercise in the faculties of reason but involves faith as well.
  26. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If we reject the "leap" of faith, then faith is simply believing in what is left after reason/understanding has wiped out the nonsense.

    That may sound a bit weird but I think it is similar to John 6:67-68
    67Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
    68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

    Peter exercised faith, but there was no other game in town.

  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think we're in agreement. "Leap of faith" is typically a way of describing what men are called to have to do to accept religious truth given the neumonal/phenomenal divide of post-Kantian philosophy. We both reject this division in reason.

    I find Kuyper's analogy on the faculties of man to be helpful where he compares the fallenness of man to the Admiral of a fleet of ships who betrays his Sovereign and goes into the service of another. He does not sink his ships but keeps the armada of ships in perfect working order and then turns his weapons against the King.

    When I spoke of reason I guess I ought to have noted that man is going to use that reason against God. His mind will function "properly" in one sense but it will be used (ethically) against God. Faith redirects the affections of the soul and, consequently, it is not that he will learn new logical rules but will no longer be hostile to God. In this sense, Creation is spiritually apprehended revelation because the fallen man will have no true fruition in what knowledge he has of Creation unless his heart is created anew and he is not using his faculties as a weapon against the Creator.

    Linking back to the OP, then, Arminianism posits that man's nature in the Fall is not so affected. I think too often the argument tends to blur the issue as if Calvinism sees men using the minds created in the image of God in some new supernatural way when the issue has to do with a change of allegiance or affection where enmity once existed. Only the Gospel can eliminate this enmity but this does not mean that we are incapable of reasoning with our neighbors altogether.

    Thus, in Peter's case, he's not using some new reason but recognizing and embracing the words of eternal life that unregenerate men would refuse on ethical grounds.
  28. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    The problem here is that the conclusion is the first premise. Y presupposes X if and only if X is a necessary condition of Y's being meaningful. Yet this is precisely what is being debated.

    The problem is that this is inconclusive: you're presenting Christianity as a theory: a convenient explanation for particular phenomena. It's the kind of "God-of-the-gaps" thinking that most serious philosophers, whether Christian or not, agree is not an appropriate reason for theism. The unbeliever is asking whether there is a God, not whether positing God would be a convenient explanation.

    In some ways my thought is developing on this point (thanks to Wittgenstein, in part, though not wholly). In many ways, these personal commitments also define what sorts of statements are capable of having truth-value.

    The everyday is the key to the philosophical. By creating this disconnect, you are creating conceptual confusion---part of the point of philosophy is to disentangle this confusion.

    What logical problems? Where does the contradiction lie?

    I think the distinction is just creating unnecessary confusion. Epistemology is concerned with how we know what we know, not with what sorts of propositions are knowable or intelligible---that's linguistics. The best epistemologists are teachers.

    I'm curious as to what exactly you mean by this. The grand metaphysical schemes suggested by many are indeed the product of particular commitments, but for those who haven't produced such schemes, the method of exposing these commitments by this means is pointless. If you want to expose autonomy, metaphysics can be useful, but only for a very small subset of people.

    I wouldn't say this, actually, because it makes God sound arbitrary. I would say that God is the definition of what goodness is.

    On the contrary: the question of Euthyphro still remains. Even my own solution has fallen prey to certain criticisms.

    I'm not a classical foundationalist, just a common-sense realist. I do have properly basic beliefs, but that doesn't mean that metaphysical explanation is impossible, merely unnecessary for real knowledge.

    ---------- Post added at 02:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:18 PM ----------

    Indeed. This, I think, is what Kierkegaard, for all his faults, got right: we have to see revelation as a word from the outside and until a person, through Divine Grace, is able to recognize it as such, it's going to be a stumbling block (the "leap of faith," that SK talks about is actually unrelated to this point---it's about ethics, not epistemology).
  29. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Either creation is a miracle which is beyond reason to discover or it is not.
  30. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Creation is a miracle that is not beyond reason to discover.

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