Clarification on Presuppositional Apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Claudiu, Aug 2, 2011.

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  1. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    Do Presuppositionalists suggest that because everyone presupposes God they all know God exists (what about the Trinitarian God)? (I'm also trying to keep in mind Romans 1:19-20).

    My question of the presuppositions people make is at the level of their knowledge of doing so. For example, morality. Does presupposing God for morality mean that one really knows God, or can we say that one borrows from the Christian worldview without knowing it?
  2. Resequitur

    Resequitur Puritan Board Freshman

    Presuppositionalists (at least that of the Vantillian camp) follow Calvin, who follows Paul, in saying that God created man with a " Sensus divinitatis", that is a sense of deity. and that all men know God by virtue of being created in the Image of God, and because God is "made it evident to them" (Rom 1:19) . So being that God created everything as it is for His Glory, and that He's created man to be able to fully comprehend these things, and use reasoning to the end of His Glory, then by using these tools, they presuppose the Triune God of Scripture. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom 1:20) The problem is, of course, original sin. We suppress the truth that God is making evident to us, for a lie. So we become vain

    It means to make any intelligible moral judgment, we have to presuppose The Triune God of Scripture, who is our Creator and Judge, or we cannot make sense of anything. So anyone who says something is good or bad, has to borrow from the Christian worldview in which is the only worldview that accounts for morality intelligibly.

    More could be said at this point, but I'm not the expert on Vantillian presuppositionalism. I would say read Greg Bahnsen on the topic of arguing TAG from morality.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  3. "William The Baptist"

    "William The Baptist" Puritan Board Freshman

    I am relatively new to Presuppositional apologetics, but I believe Resequitur explained it well. If you are interested these are some online resources that have helped me:

    Greg Bahnsen - Worldviews in Conflict (part 1)- YouTube The whole channel has a lot of great series of talks by Bahnsen. My brother, who is not reformed AT ALL, has been intrigued by "my approach" to apologetics and I linked him to these... he really likes them and is reading Always Ready by Bahnsen (I nearly fell over when my Arminian brother showed such interest in Bahnsen!)

    Reformed Apologetics This was the first article I read by Van Til that began my study into said apologetics.

    Free Articles

    Reformation Files

    I am still reading through By What Standard by Rushdoony (On Van Til) and plan to read Always Ready by Bahnsen as my next apologetic work.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  4. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    The word "know" is used in many different ways by human beings. Here it means a knowledge that is immediate, like seeing a tree in one's backyard. We do not arrive at this knowledge through some proccess of reasoning, like one of the traditional arguments might supposse. That is how I think Van Til, Calvin, and Paul meant it. Resequitur explained it very nicley.

    As far as Presuposing God for morality, or anything else, Van Til would claim what he called the impossibility of the contrary. What that means is that we know that no other religion or philosophy or worldview can ever completly intperpret creation truthfully. How can they if they are a false starting point to begin with. When they do interpret creation truthfully it is because they have borrowed capital, or truths, from the christian faith. Presuposition here doesn't really mean like at the begining of a syllogism in an argument.

    We know that they must presupose God, the Triune God, because they are made in his image. This means that they cannot use that image to completly realize their goal to inerpret creation completly without any reference to him, that is truthfully. Also Creation is creation, it is only by knowing and presuposing this in one's most inner being that we can ever get along in the world. His creation can only ever be truthfully interpreted as his creation, impossibility of the contrary. Also God in his common grace prvents the unbeleiver from fully realizing his intentions to "truthfully" interpret creation with the image of God from a false religious or philosophical point of view.

    This is why in The Defense of the Faith Van Til speaks of an absolute ethical antithesis between the beleiver and the unbeleiver. There is an absolutly ethical difference in motivation we'll say between how the beleiver and the unbeleiver wish to interpret creation, regardless of whether they both "faithfull' can do that or not. I hope I have not been confusing up to this point Please ask me to clarify anything if I have. All that was basicly stating what K. Scott Oliphant teaches at WTS in Philidelphia, I suggest anyone studying this subject to check him out.

    Now to bring in Bahnsen in one of the places he is really good. Now all that I stated is sort of the situation the apologest finds themselves theologically before ever engaging the unbeleiver in defending the faith. Now we must look at presuposition in its more logical or philosophical sense. Every beleif I have logically presuposses other beleifs to be true in order for them to also be true, whether I am concious of it or not. If I believe that I see a tree in my yard I am unconciously presuposing that my senses are working properly. Now also a beleif can logically presupose other beleifs that the person would regect. Like an atheist being shown that an atheistic worldview must presupose an amoral universe or a universe in which morality does not exist.

    Here enters the transcendental argument. All we do in theory is show that it is only by logically presuposing the christian worldview that anything as we experience it makes any sense. That is a lot I know. If I was confusing about anything ask me to elaborate.
  5. T.A.G.

    T.A.G. Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, as we cannot stop knowing or get away from God because we are made in His image.

    Some examples that specify to the Triune Nature of God

    If one wants to have justified true belief about murder of little girls being wrong, then there must be an immaterial, immutable, transcendent, personal, revealed moral law. Obvious these preconditions are only met within the Christian God, but to go even further this would be to admit that morality stems from God and His nature. If God and His nature is good, then God is good and good stems from the nature of God. God's nature would then be a moral nature. If God has a moral nature then He would have a loving nature (for it is better to be loving than unloving). We know the Bible informs us that God's nature is love John 4. But what is love? Love in its very nature is to give its self away, it is to reach out to another rather then centering on oneself wholly. Thus the question that is to be asked is, before man who was God reaching out to and who was God giving Himself away to? The preconditions can be met in the Trinity

    Another way of looking at it is the problem in philosophy known as the one and many. IN the history of philosophy some have argued that universals/unity are ultimate and others that the diversity is ultimate. Which one is it? It seems if you make one more ultimate than the other, it would damper the reality of the other. But the Trinity again can solve that by having both the one and the many as ultimate.

    So things like believing God is love or that the unity and diversity that we see in creation is both ultimate, by necessity presupposes God is trinity.
  6. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you all for the input. I will take a look at all the resources (I'm sure they will help me with my current studies).

    So I understand that everyone must presuppose the triune God (i.e. for morality) but does that mean they really know the triune God. What I mean by this is like the man in the amazon jungle. We can say that he presupposes God, but does that mean he has knowledge of the triune God? I'm not asking if he presupposes God, I know he does. What I'm asking is what his knowledge of God is. It seems like we all have some knowledge of God to begin with, but I don't think that it's necessarily knowledge of the Trinity.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  7. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    He knows God, but he does not necessarily know that God exists as a Trinity.
  8. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    His knowledge would be immediate. He immediatly is aware of God as creator and his obligation to obey his moral law. I'm not sure on whether or not the bible teaches that this knowledge is specific enough to include the trinity. When Van Til says that everyone must presupose the triune God to make sense of anything he is moving from a theological fact to a philosophical implication. There are no such things as possible worlds in which there is anything other than the triune creator. It is not possible for the triune God not to exist, we know that. So only the christian worldview can make sense of reality because it openly affirms this theological truth.

    Now how one proves this logically is trickier. That is why he relied upon the transcendental method to do so. It asks for the preconditions, what also must be true prior to this thing being what it is, of anything and shows, or attempts to show, that it is only with the christian worldview that this piece of experience is intelligable. why would we be able to do science in a world that is totaly random, we couldn't. So that idea doesn't make sense out of why we can do science at all. But a creator God who regulates the universe gives the perfect preconditions for why we are able to do science.
  9. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Would you say that we know that the Bible is God-breathed because the worldview affirmed by the Bible is the only worldview that can make that piece of evidence intelligible?
  10. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I would absolutly say that. You are right. Depending upon your audiance though your "proof" here could get more complex depending upon their level of knowledge of philosophy, science, etc. But you are absolutly right.
  11. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think Calvin believes exactly in an intuitive or imprinted knowledge of God. Rather, the knowledge of God is mediated by man's observation of creation. It is, however, universal. See Paul Helm, John Calvin's Ideas.
  12. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Well you may be correct but I heard Dr. Oliphant speaking about this very book in his talk on Refpormed Forum, here it is Christian Essentialism -, so I won't argue about what Calvin meant because I heve not read enough Calvin to come to my own conclusion. I would also say that it is not so much imprinted knowledge as much as its immediate knowledge, I know that God exists the second I know creation, in any way shape or form. I know that that may be confusing but it is more, but includes, imprinted knowledge. I would resist any natural theology that would make knowledge of God in nature only available after some rational argument, it is there before we reason that far.
  13. Resequitur

    Resequitur Puritan Board Freshman

    "Men of sound judgment will always be sure that a sense of divinity which can never be effaced is engraved upon men’s minds. Indeed, the perversity of the impious, who though they struggle furiously are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God, is abundant testimony that this conviction, namely, that there is some God, is naturally inborn in all, and is fixed deep within, as it were in the very marrow.”

    from John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 43, 45-46.

    It seems Calvin would say that there is an implanted Sense of Divinity which isn't mediated by his reasoning (as to leave him inexcusable) as well as what you said above. I've not read Helm, but I have read Calvin as well as Oliphint and Van Til (explaining Calvin)
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    In his Institutes (1:43), Calvin wrote: “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.”

    Paul drives home the point in Romans. In Romans 1:18-21, the Apostle’s language is abundantly clear. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul asserts all people “see” the glory of God reflected in the created order. All people “understand” its divine implications, and therefore “know” that the Creator exists (verses 19-20). In fact, Paul reinforces a form of the Greek word ginōskō (“to know” by personal experience)—in verse 19—“what may be known about God (to gnōston tou theon)—and again in verse 21—“For although they knew God” (gnontes ton theon). And in four other times, in the broader context of verses Romans 1:18-32, Paul mentions that human beings know God. The Greek here undeniably conveys the idea that all people have some authentic, objective, and accurate knowledge of God—although that understanding may be rudimentary in nature. Therefore, no one can legitimately claim the excuse I did not know that there was a God. Indeed, God has not left himself without a witness (see also Acts 14:17; 17:24-31).

    Note also that on the one hand Paul claims that each person possesses a true knowledge of God by way of the created order, and on the other, he also asserts that the natural predisposition of fallen man is to suppress this understanding. When we examine the Greek word for “suppress” (katechō), we find it means to hold down or hinder illegally. In other words, while all human beings know there is a God, they seek to dodge their moral accountability to God.

    Presupposing God is not making an unverifiable assumption. Nor is it to accept His existence as a working hypothesis. Instead it is to recognize that our creaturehood demands that we recognize our Creator. For me, all human rationality must be based on the self-consciousness of the God of Scripture. I believe this approach has its warrant from the Bible, which we find no evidence of it attempting to “prove” the truth of God’s existence or of the gospel by human reason. Indeed, the Bible presupposes God (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:6). God is not a fact to be discovered, rather God is necessary to the existence of all the facts of the universe. There are no "brute facts", that is facts that exist apart from the existence of God who has interpreted and given meaning to facts. God created facts and only in Him can facts have their true meaning. It is by Christ that all things cohere (Col. 1:17).

    I am not claiming we cannot, for the sake of argument, reason with the unbeliever on their own presuppositional grounds. But our aim should be to show the absurdity of their worldview.

  15. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    Patrick, I agree with you that all people know God. My question was, do presuppositionalists claim all people know God as Trinity? As Curt said in post #7, I think that all know God, but not all necessarily know that God exists as a Trinity.
  16. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I see and agree with Curt.

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