difference between Evidential and Presuppositionalism

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Robbie Schmidtberger, Oct 28, 2008.

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  1. Robbie Schmidtberger

    Robbie Schmidtberger Puritan Board Freshman

    What do you think is the key difference between the two methods? :gpl:

    The two options that I can think of most readily is the role of Scripture and the extent of the noetic effect of sin. (Noetic effect = the extent of sin's twisting upon the human mind.)
     
  2. InevitablyReformed

    InevitablyReformed Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Robbie,

    Man, I just don't think I'm qualified to answer your question sufficiently. However, in short, I think that the presuppositionalist denies that man can reason TO God and unlike the evidentialist, the evidence just isn't enough for the unbeliever.

    This is probably oversimplified but hopefully it's not dead wrong.
     
  3. Robbie Schmidtberger

    Robbie Schmidtberger Puritan Board Freshman

    Daniel,
    I think you are spot on. Presuppositional apologetics strive to be 100% consistent with Scripture. Those who are reformed and evidential, like RC Sproul, admit that one needs the Holy Spirit to regenerate their hearts, as we apart from Christ cannot save ourselves. They state and argue that we can use science and reason to prove the existence of a god, but that is all we can do. Denny Prutow, of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary here in Pittsburgh, argued that the Westminster Confession taught this.

    But is this it?

    PS. Small world - my wife and I attended your congregation on our honeymoon last May. We were in Charleston the same time as Spolleto (spelling?).
     
  4. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    From what I understand presuppositionalist will acknowledge evidence is useful and can lead to understanding but not to conversion. They affirm that all men know there is a God even when he denies it.

    Am I correct?
     
  5. Blue Tick

    Blue Tick Puritan Board Graduate

    I agree. Evidentialism can do a fine job of proving that there is a God, but this will not convince non believers to believe in God. Within evidentialism how is the gospel presented? Presuppositionalists labor to present the gospel and the need to believe in God; which is different from the evidentialist approach which labors to prove that a God exists.
     
  6. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    Evidentialist approach extends to more than the existence of God, e.g. including the historicity of Christ and the resurrection.

    I see the evidentialist as making the argument that agnostic, atheistic, or philisophical opponents are exercising more of a "blind faith" than they accuse the Christians of -- and in the face of historical evidence.

    :2cents: But I'm just shooting from the hip here.

    This of course is no suggestion that one may be converted by accepting facts alone. But the HS can use any means he sees fit to work a change in one's heart.
     
  7. Answerman

    Answerman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Evidentialists argue for their presuppositions whereas presuppositionalists argue that without Christian presuppositions, arguments would not be intelligible.
     
  8. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Evidentialists present the evidence that is in favor of Christianity. They will use good evidence to prove that God exists, that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that Jesus rose from the dead. Then, they will explain the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    According to presuppositionalists, there is much more than just good evidence that Christianity is true. God has revealed Himself to man in such a way that man has no excuse for not believing in God. Presuppositionalists do not say to unbelievers, "Here is some good evidence in favor of Christianity. You weigh it out." Presuppositionalists argue that unbelievers believe in things that assume God's existence such as absolute moral values, the laws of logic, the existence of evil, and so on. Moreover, unbelievers cannot justify their independence from God. Unbelievers support their commitment to independence from God by arguments founded on their commitment to independence.
     
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    All agree that mere knowledge does not convert. Nor is it a matter of saying sin affects the intellectual ability of man and only the Holy Spirit can convert. The intellectual ability of man is affected morally by sin, not propositionally, so man can know things which pertain to God; and further, when the Holy Spirit converts, He uses intellectual means, and so might use evidential arguments.

    The real difference is this: evidential arguments require a starting point which presupposes rationality. Man's rationality is either given by God or possessed autonomously. Where man begins with the belief that he is an independent being and can arrive at facts by a neutral observation of them, the evidence presented to him and the conclusion drawn from it can only reaffirm that presupposition. Hence an evidentialist may in fact be providing the fuel whereby the fire of sinful autonomy is maintained.

    Here is an illustration to show why presuppositionalism is important, borrowed from Robert Candlish's commentary on Genesis. A man finds a watch on the beach; from that watch he reasons all kinds of qualities about its maker; but all the while the man is the master of his reasoning, and frames a watchmaker which is in accord with his own biases. Afterwards the watchmaker himself comes to the beach and reveals himself to the man that he is the one who made the watch; he begins to tell the man who he is and what he is like; it is clear that the watchmaker is now the master of the knowledge which the man learns of him. In the former case what we have is phenomenal revelation and man is the creator of the facts; in the latter case we have propositional revelation and man is the receptor of the facts. Presuppositionalism is concerned to show that man must be the receptor of the revelation of God the Creator and Redeemer.
     
  10. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    What makes man the 'master' of his reasoning by being able to reason *that* God exists by, say, a design argument from analogy?

    Okay, this strikes me as special revelation.

    In the former case we have a man contemplating a design argument for God's existence. In the latter we have special revelation. Is the latter what presuppositionalism amounts to? Why don't we just hit our opponents over the head with a big ol' bible and say, "Read It!!!"?
     
  11. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Well, presuppositionalism never concedes "neutrality" as it concerns Scripture. That is, it presupposes the truth of Scripture, the reasoning of God, over the reasoning of Man, therefore any rationale that does not acknowledge this is deficient.

    So, yeah - not only do we say, "Read it!", we also say, "Humble yourself!" in the face of God's Word and not give one inch to another presupposition.
     
  12. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi JD, notice I was addressing armourbearer's illustration of presuppositional apologetics. That is all fine and good if presuppositionalism never concedes "neutrality" as it concerns scripture.

    How is using the design argument from analogy exaulting the reasoning of Man over the Reasoning of God? What is wrong with classic arguments for the existence of God? Is it that they only yield probability?

    Okay...but that is not an argument. I was under the impression that we give arguments in apologetics.
     
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    He is reasoning his way to God and doing so by making himself the ultimate reference point of his conclusions. E.g., here is a watch; there must be a watchmaker; why? because MAN'S rationality demands it. That is, he is still master of the facts.

    God's self-authenticating revelation is basic for all apologetics, as is clear from reading classical defences as well as presuppositional approaches. The person examining an argument from design to Designer will undoubtedly have an idea of the Designer which has been formed by the knowledge which comes through special revelation. Evidential arguments are simply reasoning their way to the point where the Bible is received as a true revelation from God. A presuppositional approach honestly acknowledges this method and provides the necessary a priori background whereby the movement can be made from interpretation to fact while upholding the Sovereignty of the Revealer.
     
  14. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't know what it means to be "master of the facts". I take it there is nothing wrong with reasoning one's way to God. The crucial negative aspect must be that he is doing so my "making himself the ultimate reference point of his conclusions". In your example, I assume this is "MAN'S rationality" that is the ultimate reference point. But why not say that it is rationality as such that demands it? This is not to say that rationality as such is a blank state, but that even given the noetic effects of sin one should be able to *reason* one's way to a creator. I fail to see how that makes one "master of the facts".
     
  15. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    How is the moral argument for God's existence, or the claim that "In order to make morality intelligible, the Christian God must exist", relevantly different from the design argument in terms of its 'starting point'?
     
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    What rationality? Why should a man think that he has it or that it is ultimate for him? These questions reveal that there are a-priori ideas functioning in the background of the rational process which are influencing its outcomes.
     
  17. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    One must use their rational faculties in reflecting on whether one has it. So that is one reason to think one has it. No doubt reasoning processes can be used as an argument for God's existence, in many different ways. No doubt there are things influencing the rational processes, but why think that these influencing factors overcome and pervert the design argument? Why think that in using one's rational faculties in the design argument, one is making the rational faculties ultimate?
     
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is not the design argument per se, but what the design argument is seeking to prove, which makes the reasoning process ultimate; and this is clear from your previous question, where you ask, "But why not say that it is rationality as such that demands it?" Such a question supposes reason possesses some instrinsic authority which entitles it to "demand." Whence does it derive this authority? The perverting factor is in the use of reason as an authority apart from God in order to discover God. The machine that requires an operator cannot produce the operator.
     
  19. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    The design argument is seeking to prove a designer... How does seeking to prove a designer make the reasoning process ultimate?

    Say rationality as such demands it. By this I mean the conclusion follows by logical inference from the premises, and one ought to grant the premises are true. Why does this suppose reason possesses some intrinsic authority?

    I would say from God, which is why I like the Argument From Reason. But I don't see what this has to do with the design argument.

    I don't see how using our reasoning processes to argue that some feature has been designed and therefore requires a designer is using reason as an authority apart from God.

    Is this supposed to be similar to saying "the reasoning processes which require God's existence to function cannot lead to God's existence while functioning"? But why suppose that?
     
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Haven't you here acknowledged that one must presuppose God to be the Author of human rationality in order to affirm the existence of God by a process of reason which argues from design to Designer?
     
  21. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Puritan Board Junior

    Would the difference be that an evidentialist would try to convince the Gaderene demoniac with clever argumentation, and maybe give him a copy of Josh McDowells Evidence that demands a verdict, rather than speak the word of God to him letting God set him free .
    Many evidentialists do not believe in a dead Adam, but rather a wounded Adam. Sometimes they rely on clever arguments and wisdom of human words, which the Apostle Paul said he would not do.
    Evidential arguments can be used to remove some time wasting obstacles to get the person focus on the reality of their sinful condition as revealed by the Holy law of God.
     
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    And I am sure that the evidentialists are trying to deny Scripture, huh?
     
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Could you elaborate on this fine statement?
     
  24. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Keep in mind that I would like to read your answers to the questions I posed above, which you haven't answered yet. With that being said, perhaps one could use reasoning processes qua reasoning processes as an indication of God's existence. But I don't see why one can't use the process of reason itself to argue for God's existence either. I don't see how this makes "man the ultimate reference point". This is why I asked why "the reasoning processes which require God's existence to function cannot lead to God's existence while functioning"?

    Anyway, when we ask someone to use their reasoning ability when it comes to some text that allegedly shows that Reformed claims are true, does that mean "man is the master of rationality"? In other words, when we have exegetical debates, are we saying "man is the ultimate reference point"? If not, why not? What is the relevant difference?

    "Suppose an unbeliever has a mental block holding him back from professing faith due to his belief that the bible teach`hes libertarian free will and that nature is therefore indeterminate. Suppose his thinks this irrational and says he can't believe the Bible. Couldn't I go to the Bible and show him that the Bible does not teach libertarianism & indeterminism? And since he's an unbeliever at the time, he's not granting authority. So, would I be "assuming he's the master?""

    I have to give props to Paul M. for these last two arguments.
     
  25. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't see any need to answer the other questions as they are encapsulated in this one. To prove God's existence by a reasoning process presupposes that the reasoning process is valid and authoritative. Whence does it derive this authority? Your answer is, "God." So really what you are saying is that the reasoning process does not prove God's existence but merely confirms it for you. The evidentialist argument therefore may be corroborative or elaborative, but it cannot be demonstrative. One must first affirm the presupposition that human rationality has authority before any evidential argument could be useful. Either it is an autonomous self-authenticating rationality, as the unbeliever supposes, or it is a theonomous God-given rationality, as the Christian supposes. Once we accept this either/or, we see that the first issue is one of presuppositions, not evidences.
     
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Basically, I maintain that human rationality is created by God. All rational arguments require a belief in an Absolute Rationality to justify them. If one denies this Absolute Rationality he leaves himself with no basis for making any rational argument.

    The machine (human reasoning) is purported to be manufacturing a product (evidence for the existence of God), but for the machine to manufacture any product (rationality of any kind) it requires an operator (God). It seems to me to be a simple matter of arguing back from the machine to the operator rather than using the machine to create a look-a-like product.

    Please also see my previous post.
     
  27. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't know what you mean by "authoritative", but yes, it does presuppose they are vaild.

    Depends on your definition of proof. I do think it is a good argument for God's existence, depending on your opponent's views (e.g. a naturalist), but one would be hard pressed to *prove* the God of Christianity alone from the Argument From Reason. A cumulative case argument would be needed.

    It still hasn't been shown why the AFR is demonstrative and the evidentialist argument is not. They are both arguments for God's existence, while the AFR is a metalogical argument and the design argument is not.

    False dichotomy. This is using piety to make the argument sound better. It sure sounds good to label your opponents views as "autonomous" and "self-authenticating", but this has yet to be demonstrated.

    To restate the arguments you haven't responded to above, "when we ask someone to use their reasoning ability when it comes to some text that allegedly shows that Reformed claims are true, does that mean "man is the master of rationality"? In other words, when we have exegetical debates, are we saying "man is the ultimate reference point"? If not, why not? What is the relevant difference?

    "Suppose an unbeliever has a mental block holding him back from professing faith due to his belief that the bible teaches he has libertarian free will and that nature is therefore indeterminate. Suppose he thinks this irrational and says he can't believe the Bible. Couldn't I go to the Bible and show him that the Bible does not teach libertarianism & indeterminism? And since he's an unbeliever at the time, he's not granting authority. So, would I be "assuming he's the master?""
     
  28. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The difference is that the text of Scripture is understood by all to be authoritative. What is says, God says, and what God says is final. There is a presupposition that God has spoken and we must submit. In an evidential argument, the reason of man is being appealed to as an authoritative source for determining the issue of God's existence. It is yet to be proved that God exists, and hence human rationality is considered the ultimate authority before which all must bow.
     
  29. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Is there not an argument at different levels happening here?

    Epistemologically, one says that proper reasoning leads to X, while metaphysically, one says that God is the foundation of reasoning, logic, etc.

    It seems that Rev. Winzer is saying something similar to Kant saying that the Ontological argument is the most basic; if it does not work, then do not worry about other kinds of arguments.

    CT
     
  30. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Sort of. I just think it is dishonest to speak of human rationality making ultimate truth claims when ultimate truth itself cannot be proven to exist without an Ultimate Rationality to verify it. Why should anyone care what human reason proves? Who died and made Reason king? Without the God of truth reason is nothing more than a chemical soup discharging an electric flash.
     
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