difference between Evidential and Presuppositionalism

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

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    The "logic of the design argument", would be that one can come to a correct conclusion about God's existence with one's reasoning processes, *given what the argument is attempting to prove*.

    At first when you said that the unbeliever should be at liberty to use the same process of reasoning to conclude that the Designer of this half-good, half-bad universe is not holy, holy, holy", I thought you were bringing up the problem of evil. But on second thought, it seems you are granting God's existence (say from the design argument), and then asking how God could be all good if evil exists. At this point I would ask the unbeliever (theistic non-Christian lets say) what his standard of morality is? And I would argue God is the standard of morality, and therefore is by definition good (for if evil really does exist there must be a standard to judge it against). So the unbeliever could infer something from the evil that exists in the world, but it wouldn't be valid to claim God isn't all good (as there needs to be a standard to judge evil against).
     
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    He has used a process which says there is design in the world, therefore there must be a designer; it naturally follows that if there is evil in the world then the evil must be a part of the status quo of his design. The design argument does not lead the reasoner to the sin-hating God of the Bible.
     
  3. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    The evidentialist says to the unbeliever, "Here is some good evidence that Christianity is true." The presuppositionalist says, "Unless you assume that Christianity is true, you cannot account for the laws of logic, laws of morality, and the laws of science."
     
  4. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yes

    "status quo of his design" is very vague. Could you expound on this?

    It is only one argument, which doesn't address morality, so I think you are faulting it with a category mistake. Either does the 'logicmaker' of TAG if taken alone.
    -----Added 11/25/2008 at 06:49:31 EST-----
    In what sense are you using the word 'evidence'? What if the "evidentialist" says to the unbeliever, "The existence of objective morality is good evidence that Christianity is true"? Anything wrong with that?

    Does presuppositionalism boil down to TAG?
     
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The condition in which he designed it. Evil exists alongside all the beautiful characteristics of the phenomena which natural man observes. Any argument from design must take into account ALL the facts, and not simply those which lead to a preconceived conclusion; otherwise, if preconceived conclusions are permitted, all you have is a hidden form of presuppositionalism, not evidentialism.
     
  6. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't see how it would follow that temporally evil existed from the beginning of creation, if that is what you mean by "the condition in which he designed it". With that being said, I see no problem granting that the capacity for evil was part of the "status quo" in people God designed. But there is a big difference in saying that this is the case, and saying that God is not "holy holy holy" because this is the case. Big jump from one to another, going from factual to normative. At that point one can answer the unbeliever on moral grounds, like I layed out in some of my previous posts.
     
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    More presuppositions; now the doctrine of creation limits the scope of the design argument. It is better to be honest about presuppositions, and deal with Christianity as a system rather than try to trick people into a belief in God by a partial presentation of the evidence.
     
  8. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    How are those "more presuppositions"? Fact is, it doesn't necessarily follow from the fact that evil exists, that it has always been the case that evil exists. As I said before, I see no problem granting that the capacity for evil was part of the "status quo" in people God designed. But there is a big difference in saying that this is the case, and saying that God is not "holy holy holy" because this is the case.

    The scope of the design argument is that a designer exists. Once you go beyond that (talking about morality for example) we are no longer discussing the design argument.

    Oh, so now the design argument is "tricking" people into the existence of God! :lol: As if evidential arguments are somehow against a sytematic approach to apologetics. This needs to be argued for.

    Btw, it is even better to use all the apologetic tools God has given us, evidential arguments included.
     
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    You have factored in a doctrine of creation which is neither here nor there to the argument from design, seeing as creation is a fact of special revelation, Heb. 11:3.

    Then it doesn't necessarily follow from the fact that design exists that there has always been a designer. You are trying to eat your cake and have it too.

    The world does not display a capacity for evil, but the reality of evil. This reality is a part of the phenomena which is included in the design argument.

    I think this thread reveals that evidential arguments only serve to corroborate a belief in God. The many preconceptions you require to validate your argument from design validates the presuppositional approach.
     
  10. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Are you kidding? Creation requires a Creator. Design requires a Designer. See the similarities?

    True, I never argued that it did.

    Pudding for me thank you very much.

    Here you are defining phenomena in a very general sense that includes normative moral claims. But the design argument deals with factual data, not morality. So no, evil is not a part of the phenomena which is included in the design argument.

    No argument by itself is going to prove the God of Christianity. One must take a cumulative case approach.

    "validate my argument from design"? Taken alone even presuppositional arguments only prove so much.
     
  11. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    And if I'm not mistaken, if we take this rationality "as such" and allow "it" to "demand", that's when we step off into (or at least into the direction of) Rationalism. Am I mistaken?
     
  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we could keep going back and forth all day. "Nature" is not in a perfect condition. The moral phenomena must be permitted into the discussion of design because the case for Christianity includes moral demands which the Designer makes on man. But even if these were not permitted, then there are natural mutations which the design argument must account for. One is not at liberty to idealise one part of the phenomena and leave out of view other parts that do not prove the argument. To properly account for all the evidence we need the biblical doctrine of God, together with its distinct message of creation, fall, and redemption. That message provides the only valid answers to the questions raised by natural revelation. On that point I am content to rest my case.
    -----Added 11/25/2008 at 08:30:42 EST-----
    :up:
     
  13. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    I'm resting on your case myself! :) I'm a Presup...
     
  14. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Rev. Winzer,
    Are you implying that creation is only known by special revelation or that it is just confirmed by special revelation?

    CT
     
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    One of the dictates of reason is, "ex nihilo nihil fit." The causal or cosmological argument depends on it. The biblical doctrine is, "creatio ex nihilo," or, God used nothing but His own powerful word to create phenomena -- the things which are seen, Heb. 11:3. It was a miracle, and cannot be accounted for on the principles of natural reason.
     
  16. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    But that view would only rule out ex nihilo creation if you count God as "nothing". Reason does not imply, Physical World comes from Physical world.

    CT
     
  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Pantheism teaches creation comes out of God, and I think it can be shown that is where the causal argument might naturally lead without biblical presuppositions to guard against it. Theism teaches that creation is an act of God's will and a work of God's power.
     
  18. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Agreed.

    It must be permitted into apologetic discussion, but it is out of the scope of the design argument.

    As I said before, evidential arguments are not against a systematic approach. It is not as if the design argument is used in a conceptual vacuum. So yes, a Christian using the design argument could appeal to the fall for the existence of natural mutations. It is not like we are arguing for just any designer, but using the design argument as a cumulative case for the existence of the Christian God. I am a presuppositionalist, so I am not against the "presuppositionalist approach", but I also don't think that using evidential arguments against unbelievers is contrary to the presuppositionalist approach either.

    Agreed. But I don't think the existence of mutations is a defeater of the design argument.

    Agreed.
     
  19. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The point I have maintained throughout this thread is that the presuppositional approach is required to provide the a-priori framework for rational argumentation. Without it there is no accountability of reason to divine revelation. If that point is accepted, then I don't think we have any disagreement.
     
  20. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    And I do not disagree with this point. The point I have maintained throughout this thread is that evidential arguments for God's existence do not presuppose autonomous reasoning, or make man "master of the facts". If *this* point is accepted, then we really have no disagreement. Do you accept this point?
     
  21. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Where there is no presuppositional framework, evidential arguments are by nature an appeal to autonomous reasoning.
     
  22. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    In what sense are you using the word 'evidence'? What if the "evidentialist" says to the unbeliever, "The existence of objective morality is good evidence that Christianity is true"? Anything wrong with that?

    Does presuppositionalism boil down to TAG?[/QUOTE]

    I use the word, "evidence", in the sense of that which justifies a belief.

    There is nothing wrong with saying, "The existence of objective morality is good evidence that Christianity is true". It is my understanding that presuppositionalists make a stronger claim by saying that unless God is presupposed, there is no accounting for objective morality.

    I'm not sure if presuppositionalism boils down to TAG.
     
  23. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for your thoughts cih1355.


    Then you don't agree. We could keep going back and forth, but at this point I think it is best to leave it up to the reader to decide which point has been better argued for.
     
  24. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Caleb, I think I understand the thrust of your argument, but tell me if my recollection of it is a false caricature:
    1. In order to understand that God is sovereign over everything, such as reason, our existence, morals, etc., we must reason to that.
    2. But if we have to reason to that, then we are using reason in a "neutral" or autonomous fashion; that is, we cannot presuppose that God is necessary for reason's existence before we complete the AFR.
    3. .: insofar as presuppositionalism affirms that God must be presupposed at the beginning of all argumentation (including the AFR), presuppositionalism is a faulty method.

    Correct me if that is not representative of your argument.

    I struggled with this as well, with my problem manifesting itself more so in the fact that I could not avoid the "piecemeal" method, which is present in your method too, seeing as you said that the AFR and the teleological argument cannot prove the existence of the Christian God. The solution that I found seemed to sacrifice the certainty of TAG in rationalistic terms, changing it to certainty in Scriptural terms. Let me explain:

    As your argument points out, in the AFR we cannot avoid but not to grant God's existence at the beginning of the argument, for the maintaining of intellectual fairness. Therefore, if we are to accept God at the beginning of the argument, it would not be for rational reasons, but for some other reasons. I termed this type of commitment as one to a pre-rational authority.

    And what reasons do we accept God as authoritative prior to the AFR? Because we simply know that we ought to do so; it is implanted within us as a sensus divinitatus. I think that the doctrine of our sense of deity is the result of a faithful exegesis of Romans 1 as well as an appeal to experience: if we did not have God as a pre-rational starting point (i.e. if we did not have a sense of deity which promoted that we accept God prior to our reasoning processes), then no one could help but remain a non-Christian. If there were no sense of a deity which the Holy Spirit coerced us to embrace as Father, then autonomous reasoning would be rampant across mankind, and with it autonomous philosophies, which lead to the destruction of knowledge as Van Til and other Reformed philosophers have shown. Thus, Christianity/Jehovah is ultimately selected by a pre-rational submission to Scripture, prompted by our regeneration and sensus divinitatus.

    This helps to avoid the problem of necessary autonomous reasoning, where even TAG would seem only to prove a "piece" of Christianity, and this is what ultimately differentiates presuppositionalism from evidentialism. This demonstrates that we are not required to start with an autonomous basis and that it is perfectly alright to accept the entirety of Christianity as a rational belief without having to build an impermeable apologetic (of which many believers are incapable).

    Of course, you might object that this sounds fideistic, which is where the apologetics come in. I would use TAG to demonstrate the absurd inconsistencies of competing philosophies, evincing that without accepting God, nothing makes sense. I need not rationally prove that God is an essential pre-rational authority, but I can rationally prove that every competing system thrown my way is self-destructive and sinful, giving extremely compelling rational reasons to believe in Christianity.

    In a word, the sense of deity (and witness of the Holy Spirit) is the proof of Christianity and TAG is the persuasion. (This is what I meant when I said that I sacrificed rationalistic certainty for Scriptural certainty; we don't prove God 100% with a rational proof but rather with our sense of deity). Even if we failed in our arguments, Romans 1 would not cease to be truthful; e.g. even with our faulty argument against the philosophical consistency of materialistic atheism, the atheist would stand condemned before God, suppressing his knowledge of God.

    I apologize for the length. :)

    Ben
     
  25. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    I summarize presuppositionalism as Man's reason and his ability to discern truth is subordinated to the triune God's reason and His revelation of truth.

    In an effort to find "common" or "neutral" ground, evidentialists subordinate God's reason and revealed truth to Man's reason and ability to discern truth.

    -----Added 11/27/2008 at 07:37:06 EST-----
    Its as if a sighted man agreed to be blindfolded against a blind man in a contest to find a pearl of great price.

    -----Added 11/27/2008 at 07:40:27 EST-----
    Presuppositionalists reject the blindfold.
     
  26. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm hoping that this summary is not representative because if it is, then I would have to disagree.

    1)If one assumes autonomous reason at the onset then one will never be able to reason to something beyond autonomous reason.
    2)If you conclude that there is something beyond reason at the end of your reasoning, then you did not assume simply autonomous reason at the onset.

    I think a better view is that one is born with concepts of infinity, eternality etc. and spends time searching for what realizes those concepts. At the onset of your search, you should realize that logic/etc does not realize these concepts. If you do this, then it would be possible to get to the end of your search and "discover" something beyond reason, eventhough reason is something necessary to do your searching.

    So at the beginning of the argument one should presuppose that the answer to your ontological questions will fulfill certain requirements. At the end of the discussion, one will be able to say, that the answer is the Triune God of the Bible.

    If you instead make the ontological assumption that it is logic is able to stand on its own two feet, then you will never be able to crown God as God at a later point.

    CT
     
  27. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    No! :)

    That is the thrust of his argument against presup. My reply is that God is necessary prior to reasoning, and therefore we cannot reason to His pre-rational necessity (such a concept is impossible!).

    Of course -- I agree that the argument from reason (not used transcendentally) could not consistently yield the surrender of autonomy. But that is not the question at hand: we are pondering how we can logically avoid granting autonomy at the beginning of such an argument while still having a coherent methodology.

    And how is this methodology not autonomous? You have declared that the Triune God only appears at the end and not necessarily at the beginning.

    Yes, but the argument is that if we are going to determine whether God is necessary for reasoning, we cannot tell the unbeliever to assume that God is necessary for reasoning prior to making the metalogical argument. And if we cannot tell the unbeliever that he ought to assume that, then we are granting validity to an autonomous methodology. I believe that my method avoids this problem by stressing the necessity to accept God apart from rational argument, as Romans 1 would seem to indicate.
     
  28. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    God was not brought only at the end. He was there from the beginning. At the beginning He was known as "whom fit certain qualifications and concepts." At the end, we are able to say, "He is whom we were looking for all along". If we had started out autonomously, we could never come to such a conclusion.

    We can show him a criteria for God that is imprinted (sense of the divine) and that he cannot fill it, therefore autonomy is nonesense.

    Also one problem with making the sense of deity the proof, is that you then have to make an argument that it is proof for x as opposed to y.

    CT
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2008
  29. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi Ben,

    I was not arguing against presuppositionalism as presuppositionalism, but only a certain variety of presuppositionalism which is anti-natural theology (e.g. classical arguments for God’s existence). I was trying to flesh out what exactly was meant by ‘autonomous’, and then arguing that it either applied to armourbearer’s position, or was irrelevant and mere pious sounding words.

    Obviously arguments such as the design argument in and of themselves aren’t bad to use, for they could be used to bolster the faith of another Christian. So it must be that they are only “autonomous” when used against the unbeliever.

    In trying to find out just what is meant by “autonomous”, I said,

    “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 teaches he has 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?""

    See, ‘autonomous’ and ‘master of the facts’ sounds bad and all, but we really need to flesh out what this means to see if it really has any grip. Of course it can’t just mean “not arguing at the presuppositional level”, because that is what is under discussion. We need to know *why* arguments that aren’t at the ‘meta’ level are ‘autonomous’, and what ‘autonomous’ really means.

    Depends on what you mean by “prove”. I think traditional arguments for God’s existence make God’s existence highly probable. I don’t think one needs to have epistemic certainty to have a proof.

    TAG doesn’t even prove God’s existence certain in ‘rationalistic’ terms.

    Actually we can. My point was that the unbeliever isn’t going to grant it *temporally* at the beginning of the argument. I was more trying to see if the *attitude* of the unbeliever is what was being deemed “autonomous”, though I don’t think that’s what armourbearer was getting at.
    Can’t say I agree with that.

    With the rest of what you said, I’ll quote armourbearer:

    Why can’t traditional theistic arguments also be the ‘persuasion’?

    I agree that even if we failed in our arguments, Romans 1 would not cease to be truthful. You might read this post at T-blog: Triablogue: Probability & Inexcusability
     
  30. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Good link, thanks.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page